USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘jokes’
Adulthood
Folk speech
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Polish Wedding Joke

Main Piece

QJ: “Can it be a dirty joke?”

Collector: “Yes.”

QJ: “A lot of the jokes I grew up with are kind of dirty…most Polish ones are…I think one that my grandfather would say asks what is long and hard that a Polish bride gets on her wedding night?”

Collector: “What?”

QJ: “A new last name.”

Analysis

This joke seems to be fairly popular among Polish people, and I have heard it beyond my informant. In fact, I have heard it outside of the realm of Polish culture, and have seen different ethnic backgrounds attached to it. It seems that many prideful Slavic people make light of their often long and hard to pronounce last names through jokes like these. Given my informant’s background for the joke and explaining that he heard ones like these growing up, I would also assume that his culture and family have more of an openness to tell dirty jokes in front of younger audience. Generally, it would seem that older people have more of a relaxed ability to tell jokes that otherwise would not seem appropriate. This joke also implies a patriarchal society, where a woman would receive something from her husband in any interpretation of the joke, but no jokes suggest the woman giving the man anything.

 

general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Bill Clinton and the Pope Joke

Context: The informant was in the midst of telling his favorite jokes at a party

Piece: “Okay… so… by chance Bill Clinton and the Pope die on the same day, and due to some clerical screw up, Bill Clinton is sent to Heaven and the Pope is sent to Hell. And the Pope’s like nah this ain’t right. So he goes to the… uh… the administration folk and goes and says look I’m the Pope I shouldn’t be here and they’re like oh… we must’ve made a mistake we’ll get that fixed, it’ll take us a day— we’ll get it fixed. So, the next day.. uh the old Pope is walking up the uh pearly white steps and Bill Clinton is walking down and uh they stop, they shake hands, they say hello and uh Clinton says, ‘So, uh father what are you looking forward to most in heaven?’ and the Pope says, ‘Uh, I don’t know, I guess one thing I’ve always wanted to do is meet the Virgin Mary.’ Clinton says, ‘Ah, missed her by a day.”

Background: The informant, a 20 year old student at Harvard, found this joke on Reddit and believes this is one of his best jokes. He enjoys telling jokes to his friends and family.

Analysis:This joke is compelling and intriguing because it combines two radically different public figures in an absurd scenario. The joke plays on Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, insinuating that he has sex with everyone and would even have sex with the Virgin Mary. This piece reflects how American culture views Bill Clinton as untrustworthy and has sex with all women. By putting religion, and such a holy figure in Christianity as the Virgin Mary, this joke further pokes at how Bill Clinton lacks boundaries and respect. The audience recognizes that Clinton has conducted this behavior before and it is ironic that he would do it again, especially in Heaven, where non-sinners (unlike Clinton) would go.

Folk speech
Humor

Horse Walks Into A Bar “Dad” Joke

A: A horse walks into a bar and the bartender, and the bartender says: why the long face?

(group laughs and groans)

 

Background:

Location of joke: 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. A was the last to perform his folklore and was particularly inspired after another student performed what was termed as a “dad joke.”

 

Analysis: Prior to A’s performance, another “dad” joke, as the group defined it, was presented. I had my own understanding of Dad jokes prior as just being truly ridiculous in the fact that the punchline was so on the nose…hence the groan. Therefore, my understanding of the effect of “dad” jokes was confirmed through these auditory cues and conversation. It is also interesting to note that dad jokes have no association with father’s at all; possibly this implies that you do not have to be a father in order to be embarrassing – a bad joke will do.

general
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic
Magic

How to stop a dog from pooping

Main Piece:

“Do you remember what your dad used to tell us when we were little, about how to stop dogs from pooping? (laughter) So, he said that when you saw a dog pooping you should stare at it and interlock your index fingers and pull on them while staring at the dog. I did it many times, and it worked! Or maybe the dog was just creeped out by me staring at it.”

 

Context:

The informant is a 27-year-old Mexican American college student. He heard this “trick” from his uncle. He is not sure why he was told this but continues to try out the “trick” to this day.

 

Analysis:

I believe that this gesture was a way to entertain us when we were children. It might just be a prank to pull on naïve individuals.

Adulthood
Childhood
Folk speech
Humor
Narrative
Old age

Call a Wambulance

Main Piece:

“You better call a Wambulance”

Translation: Don’t complain about pain unless you want to go to the hospital

Background: The informant is a senior here at USC. He is my next door neighbor and we conducted this interview in person at his apartment. He is from Manhattan Beach and has lived there for his entire life.

Context: I asked the informant if he knew of any “Dadisms”. Dadisms are usually puns, combining word play with a common saying to covey a new meaning. The informant learned of the saying through his own father saying it and has said this to me multiple times in casual conversation. The informant stated that he likes to use the phrase as it reminds him of his father. The informant said his father will make this joke in response to someone (usually within the family) complaining about getting a minor physical injury, such as stubbing one’s toe. The joke is meant to mean that the person injured should fight through the pain and not let it bother, per the informant.

Analysis: It seems Dads have their own folklore, as does every other social community. I found this piece intriguing because this is actually stated by my own father as well. My Dad will use the exact phrase in the same situation as the informant’s. I asked my father where he learned this phrase and he said he learned it from his own father. Clearly, these “isms” are trans-generational. Like the informant, I also use this joke in passing. And, like the informant, I also learned of and associate this saying with my father. For the more recent generation, I believe this phrase is repeatedly used as a way to continually tie us to our fathers. For the the older generation, I believe the continued use of this joke serves to solidify their own identity as fathers.

Humor

The Talking Mule

Subject:

The subject is a student at USC who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. I wanted to know if there were any local tales or folklore she knew of while growing up, so I interviewed her for the project.

 

Piece:

Subject: There was this joke my grandpa used to tell us a lot when we were growing up, and I don’t think it’s actually that funny.

Interviewer: Share it with us.

Subject: I’m gonna butcher it, but it wasn’t funny in the first place —

Interviewer: So it won’t matter if you butch it then.

Subject: Okay it was called “The Talking Mule” and, ugh I’m gonna mess it up, but there was this farmer and he had a wife and kid. And he told the kid to go get something from the mule, but when he went over to the mule it said “I don’t wanna work today.” And the kid freaked out and he ran to his dad and told him that the mule talked. The farmer got mad at his son and sent him inside then went to the mule, which said, “I don’t wanna work today.” And then the farmer freaked out and said “I’ve never heard a mule speak” and the dog replied “Me neither.” And the farmer freaked out even more, he ran into the house and told his wife, “The mule and the dog talk!” And the wife said “You’re a liar.” And then the farmer freaks out and says, “You talk to?!”

Interviewer: That’s a pretty good one.

Subject: Yeah, it’s a little sexist at the end but then again it was my grandpa so.

 

Analysis:

I looked this joke up and I had to weave through lots of “Francis the Talking Mule” articles, which is a movie series about, you guessed it, a talking mule. But I eventually found that this joke is apparently apart of a string of South Carolinian tall tales. The version I found online doesn’t end with a joke about the wife speaking, but rather ends with the cat speaking. It’s not too much of a surprise like the one the Subject told, but the online version isn’t so derogatory, so. I looked up if agriculture was an important part of the South Carolinian economy, but it turns out their emphasis is in aerospace and technology.

general
Humor

“You Know You’re A Raver If” Jokes

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He described his most active era to be from 1997-2001 in the underground trance music scene of the Bay Area. He attended many outdoor, open-air, camping events that are described as “underground” or not necessarily sanctioned in the same way that official music festivals, such as Coachella, or Outside Lands are.

Context: Professor Nye was describing jokes and stereotypes of ravers that existed when he was involved in the underground trance scene in the Bay area. He was laughing throughout the joke-telling still clearly very amused by the jokes. Professor Nye seemed to expect that I would understand the jokes as a student in his Electronic Music and Dance Culture course based on our learning about rave culture.

“I remember just jokes around… actually this is hilarious I remember a list going around of “You Know You’re A Raver if” blah blah blah. Have you ever heard these before? At that time one of my favorite ones was, that I kind of came up with with friends was “You Know You’re A Raver if your email is happysparklyglowbear15@plur.org Another one is, you know you’re a raver if you’re doing the laundry and you start arguing about whether the washing machine has a style of tribal or trance. The strongest example was you know you’re a raver if you pay $30 for a party that may not happen, pay $20 for a pill that may be aspirin, but you will not pay $2 for a bottle of water.”

Game
Humor

Oreo Practical Joke

As a practical joke on friends and family Grant as a child would lick the inside of an Oreo out and refill it with white-colored toothpaste. He would then put them back inside the Oreo container and offer them to people.

 

Background: Grant is a twenty-two year old raised in Los Angeles, CA with one younger sister.

Context: Grant told me this joke over lunch talking about funny things we would do as kids.

Analysis: In my opinion, practical jokes are so heavily connected to youth and a lighthearted motive that usually they are just funny and not something to ever get upset over. Especially with the practical joke Grant would play, it is ridiculous to be genuinely mad; more so than getting angry, you just want to get them back with another practical joke. Practical jokes have always been something I find intriguing because I could never think of one off the top of my head or ever have the courage to play a practical joke on another person. I think practical jokes are a compelling element of folklore because the willingness to play a practical joke and which practical joke you choose is a revealing element of someone’s character

Childhood
Folk speech
Game
Humor
Riddle

The Lock

Main Piece: The Lock

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk riddle that is passed within his community or his school. He is marked as AO. I am marked as DM.

AO: El dia de ahora les quiero hacer una adivinanza. Haber si la pueden adivinar. Es chiquito come un ratón y cuidad la casa como un león. Que es?

DM: I don’t know.

AO: El candado.  

Translate:

AO: Today I am going to tell you a riddle. Let’s see if you guys can solve it. It is small like a mouse and guards the house like a lion. What is it?

DM: I don’t know.

AO: The lock.

Background/Context:

The participant is 56 years old. He grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. Alberto, who is marked as AO, is my grandpa. When I was growing up, my grandpa loved to tell me and my sisters jokes or riddles. He would tell us it helped us develop a different way of thinking. He learned this riddle and I learned this riddle in Spanish, but it makes sense in English as well. Below is a conversation I had with AO for more background/context of the joke, which was originally in Spanish.

DM: Why do you know/ like this riddle?

AO: I like to tell this riddle because it became a motivation to read. All of my books in elementary contained jokes, which made it easier to read.

DM: Where and from who did you learn this riddle from?

AO: I learned this joke in Mexico from an elementary book.  

DM: What does this riddle mean/ signify to you?

AO: Telling jokes or phrases that make people think is a tradition in Mexico. This was a better way to unfold my learning abilities in an enjoyable manner.  

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

Every time I heard this joke I never thought about it as a way to pass time or a game. I think it is important to know that at one point riddles were a form of entertainment in some communities. The fact that elementary books in Mexico that are full of riddles are being read by students is amazing. The students have no idea that their readings contain so much tradition or folklore. The fact is that the riddles that are authored text can be continued to be passed down to other children.

Humor
Riddle

The Difference Between God and A Surgeon

The informant is a junior at USC from Chicago, Illinois studying dentistry.

After a discussion of the meaning and purpose of folklore I asked him if he knew of any folk practices or sayings related to his profession. We arrived at this question because he comes from a family of dental practitioners. He has been shadowing various oral surgeons over the past year and described an incident that occurred over the past summer.

He was shadowing a successful oral surgeon in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He was observing his first intense oral surgery as it was occurring.

Mid surgery, the surgeon whom he was shadowing looked up and recited the following:

Do you know what the difference between God and a surgeon is?

(After a pause) God doesn’t think he’s a surgeon.

He couldn’t help but break into a fit of laughter as the surgeon returned to his procedure.

 

This is an interesting little joke that is variously ascribed to a variety of high skill professions such as lawyers and pilots as well. There’s an interesting duality here in that a high level of intelligence, skill, and grit is necessary to become a surgeon, and yet of course there are problems in thinking so highly of oneself. Thus, I sense a bit of ambivalence in the joke that is highly contextual. For example, if the surgeon performs a high-risk surgery correctly and says the joke, there’s a bit of pride in the sense of peril and gamble that the surgeon competed against. On the other hand, if the surgery were to fail and the joke be told (rare or strange, of course), the attention would then shift to the absurdity of such risk, of the sense of avoiding the unavoidable failure and the conceit latent in thinking so. Beyond this startling ambiguity, there’s also a sense of science superseding faith. The surgeon steps in and saves a life when there is no hope, thus affirming his or her self as a miracle of science is performed.

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