USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘panda’
Humor

Panda Joke

“So, a panda walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender and orders some bamboo, and then the panda eats it. He then draws a gun and shoots up all of the place at the restaurant. When the bartender asks why, the panda tosses him an encyclopaedia and says “I’m a panda, look it up.”. The bartender opens the book and find the panda entry. The entry reads “panda: black and white bear, native to china. Eats shoots and leaves.”

This joke is a play on words, as the panda eats bamboo shoots and bamboo leaves, but in this joke it has the panda eating, then shooting a gun, and then walking out. It follows the format of someone or something walking into a bar, and was told to my informant by her nephew. It has spread widely and there are many variations of it, such as the one in an article on The Economist website on April 25th, 2013, in an article named “A man walked into a bar…”. The one in The Economist has the panda shooting at patrons, rather than dishes, possibly indicating that the joke told to my informant had been adapted for children, as her source was a child. It’s the kind of play on words that children seem to enjoy in Western cultures, in their process of understanding that grammar and words can mix to create different meanings.

Folk speech
general
Humor
Riddle

Riddle – American

The informant learned the following riddle from his parents “years and years and years ago”:

“What’s black and white and red all over?” He gives several possible answers for the riddle, the first being the one his parents gave him (“A newspaper”). The others he mentioned were “a panda in a blender” and “a police car with a sunburn.” He claims to have “heard millions of variations on it, some of them more logical than others.”

The informant used to perform the riddle often as a child: “When I first learned it I told it to everybody I knew ’cause I thought it was hysterically funny at the time.” However, he almost never tells it any more.

The informant has great contempt for riddles in general: “I think it’s enormously stupid. I think most riddles are, especially the one that kids tell, are ultimately, uh, sort of the weakest form of humor possible.” He does make a distinction, however, between children’s riddles and adult riddles: “Riddles in my mind are either more pun-type riddles, in which case they’re usually, uh, they’re usually kid based in the sense of, uh, of they’re playing around with the idea that your brain thinks in one way and it’s actually being tricked; or they’re the more traditional riddles such as the one that the sphinx tells and stuff, that are much more about human condition, and those, I think, are riddles that adults, if they tell them at all, it will be adults telling each other because kids won’t understand them.”

The first answer to the riddle that the informant gives makes of it a “true riddle”—that is, there is an obvious answer to the question if the listener thinks about it in a different way, the pun being on the word “read” as a homophone for “red.” The police car answer seems like a deliberate attempt to be ridiculous, since it is obvious that a car cannot get a sunburn, but the panda answer is an obvious bid for shock value—since pandas are both “cute” and endangered, many listeners could be shocked and appalled at that answer. Clearly, from the informant’s assertion that he has heard many versions of the riddle, it has both multiplicity and variation. Archer Taylor recorded the riddle with the newspaper answer in his book English Riddles from Oral Tradition in 1951 (624).

Source:

Taylor, Archer. English Riddles from Oral Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951.

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