A Tale of Two Onions

Form of Folklore:  Humor

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised primarily in Glendale, California; he only left the United States for a two year period (from age fourteen to fifteen) to live in London, England.  Most of his knowledge of folklore is from his mother (of Irish decent), his father (of Persian-Armenian decent), and media such as the internet and television.

Context:  The interview was conducted in the living room of another informant’s house in the presence of two other informants.

Item:    So this is a story about… about love really, that you’ll wanna hear. It’s a story about these two onions; a man onion and a woman onion who’ve just come out of college and they’re ready to take on the world and see all that it has to offer and they meet and fall in love, they start dating you know and it’s all going extremely well and… one day after they’ve been dating a few months, they decide…they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna take the plunge, their gonna tie the knot and get married.  So they have all their family over and a beautiful ceremony and it’s the perfect day these two… onions could have imagined.  And they have a fantastic honeymoon laid out for them, they make love for the first time and it’s beautiful and magical experience.  And uh something happens that night… and nine months later a little bundle of joy… a little baby cocktail onion… is born.  And the parents are of course ecstatic… but like all parents they’re completely unprepared for the strain that this puts on their relationship.  And the financial trouble is the worst; the mother, she gotta take on a part time job ta earn more money and the father’s gotta take on more shifts down at the docks, where he works…. And unfortunately the little baby onion isn’t as well looked after as he might be.  And he’s got his parents spunk and… zeal for life so this… rambunctious little thing… one day he… wanders out of the house, rolls into the street, gets flattened by a truck.  He gets rushed to the hospital.  A team of surgeons fight all night to save his life.  The mother onion, she’s gotta be sedated, she’s just out of it, she can’t even handle the stress.  The father onion is rolling up and down outside the emergency room wearing a groove in the ghastly hospital carpet that they have there.  Finally, towards dawn, after hours of worrying, the surgeon bursts through the doors… he’s a radish… and teas his surgical mask from his face and whips the sweat away, stands panting next to the emergency room door.  The father onion rolls up to him earnestly “What?  What’s going on with my son?  What? Tell me!”  And the surgeon says, “well…. he’ll live….. but he’s gonna be a vegetable for the rest of his life.

Informant Comments:  The informant has never been able to tell this joke with out laughing at least part of the way.  The response he usually gets from those who hear this joke is anger or frustration in the form of curse words; the informant loves to see this response.  He believes the story of the struggles of the two onions is more humorous than the actual punch line.  The purpose of the joke is to have the listener go through the different life altering events of two vegetables and their child only to find out that the child is going to be a vegetable after his accident (which he clearly already is).

Analysis:  Unlike most jokes, the punch line of this joke is not what makes it funny.  From personal experience, I can say that hearing the joke a second time (while knowing the punch line) makes the joke much more humorous.  This is mainly because the listener can appreciate the irony of the ending throughout the entire telling of the tale of the two onions and their son.  The joke makes the listener accept the idea that the onions of the story are like people and thus have lives similar to human’s.  In the end, when the cocktail onion is deemed a vegetable, as in brain death, the listeners are torn from the originally accepted personification of the onions and into reality, where onions are vegetables no matter what.  This joke can annoy many listeners who wanted to go along with the fictitious world where the onions behave like humans; particularly, when it was all done for a weak punch line.