Author Archives: Olivia Gardner

Cannibal Canoe Joke


This joke was provided by Monique Warren, 20.  She considers herself “black” and is a student at the University of Southern California, studying Environmental Engineering.  Monique learned this joke from one of her roommates.  I collected it from her during a conversation in my apartment, but she most recently shared this joke at dinner with several friends from an engineering class.


Three guys end up stranded on an island, and they, like, get captured by, like cannibals.  And the cannibals are like, “We are going to skin you alive, and then we’re gonna use your skin for a canoe, and then we’re gonna eat you.”  I don’t know, I guess they were gonna make a stew or something.  And then they’re like, “But, we’ll give each of you one wish.”  So the first guy goes and wishes for a knife so he can kill himself and get it over faster.  The second guy’s like, “cool.  That seems like a good idea,” so he does the same thing.  Then they get to the third guy, and he’s like, “I want a fork.”  So they give him the fork and he starts stabbing himself all over the place [reenacts stabbing], and no one really gets what he’s doing until he shouts out, “Screw your canoe!”


This joke follows the rule of threes, with the first two victims following the same pattern and the third providing the punch-line.  Monique thinks the joke is funny because, as opposed to the first two, the third guy is so intent on ruining the cannibals’ plans that he behaves irrationally.  Interestingly, the climax of this joke comes in the form of punishing the cannibals. Cannibalism is very taboo, so it is not surprising that cannibals would become the butt of a joke, outsmarted and in a way defeated by a non-cannibal.

Afraid of Needles


This urban legend came up at a dinner for the Marathon Team, about three weeks before the L.A. marathon.  Jordan Hoese, 18, is a freshman at the University of Southern California and considers herself “white.”  Jordan heard this legend from her hall mate. Jackie Wu, 22, is a senior at USC and is a self-identified Asian-American.  Ellie Mustion, 18, is also a freshman at USC and considers herself “Caucasian.”


Jordan Hoese: Yeah, so I don’t know if this is true or not, but I heard that at this rave there were these people with AIDS and they would go around and stick people with a needle and be like, “You have AIDS now.”

Jackie Wu: I’ve totally heard that before!

Ellie Mustion: That’s scary.

Jackie Wu: Yeah, and then they don’t know if they actually have AIDS, so they got to go get tested and all that.  That would be so scary.


This story is relatively common, though unproven.  Notably, it was shared amongst a group of individuals who are all health conscious and preparing for a major physical challenge.  It reflects both a fear of an unknown entity jeopardizing their health, and thus making the months of hard work preparing for the marathon a vain effort, and a reaffirmation of group behavior.  Since attending raves is not constructive to running, this legend reinforces the taboo against hard-core partying in the Marathon Team.  The location, namely raves, of this crime is one of many common variations on the tale (Rayner 1998).  Some others include movie theaters (Associate Press 2005), doors (Bradshaw 2009), vending machines (Ellis 1990), buses (de Vos 1996), etc.  However, raves were the venues that seemed most compelling in the context of this group.


Bradshaw, Nick.  “Hidden Syringe Needles Taped to Doorknobs and Phone Injure Three.” KGW News Channel 8 [Portland, Oregon].  20 February 2009.

de Vos, Gail.  Tales, Rumors and Gossip.  Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1996.  58-59.

Rowe, Peter.  “Finding Truth in Needle Tale is Hit or Myth.”  The San Diego Union-Tribune.  26 March 1998.

The [India] Statesman. “AIDS Rumours Don’t Stand the Test of Skepticism.”  30 July 1998.

Milliken, Robert.  “Sydney Warders Strike Over HIV Needle Attacks.”  The [London] Independent.  17 September 1990.

Ellis, Bill.  “Mystery Assailants.”  FOAFTale News.  October 1990.

Rayner, Ben.  “Clubs Suffer AS Needle Rumour Persists.” The Toronto Star.  17 August 1998.

Associate Press.  “Woman Pricked By Needle at Athens Theater.”  5 October 2005.

What Happens when you Step on a Duck in Heaven


Chuck Madden, 64, owns an asphalt plant in Texas.  He and Neil Walker, 56, have been friends for many years and worked together at one point.  Neil directs an on-campus organization.  Jeremy Walker, 29, is Neil Walker’s son.  All three are self-identified “white.”  Chuck shared this joke at a dinner for students at the Walker home.  He learned the joke from a friend of his with whom he had served in the army.


One day, Neil, Jeremy, and I all died and went on up to heaven.  When we got there, we met St. Pete, but he was in a real rush so he said to us, “Hi!  Welcome to heaven!  Now, there’s only one rule up here.  I don’t have time to explain right now, but I’ll tell you anyways.  Don’t step on a duck.  I’ll explain later, but just remember not to step on any of the ducks.”  So we go on in and its absolutely beautiful and we’re having a grand old time and sure enough, Jeremy steps on a duck.  And the ducks go quacking and flapping and flying all over the place!  I mean, you have never seen anything quite like it!  Well, pretty soon, St. Pete rushes over and handcuffs Jeremy to this girl.  And, I tell you, she was the ugliest girl you have seen. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how ugly this girl was.  Well, I’m pretty observant so I say to myself, “Aha!  I know how this works.  I not gonna do that!” Well, a little time goes by and we’re walking around and, pretty soon, I step on a duck.  And these ducks are aquaking and a flapping and making a big old racket.  And again, St. Pete rushes in and cuffs me to this hideous girl.  I mean, she was worse looking than the last one he brought over!  I couldn’t believe it.  Well, we’re going along, and Neil’s feeling pretty smug about himself.  Suddenly, we hear these ducks making all kinds of noise and flying around, and St. Pete comes over with this beautiful girl.  I mean, she was drop dead gorgeous! Could have been a model!  And he handcuffs her to Neil.  Well, Neil turns to her and asks, “What did I do?”  And she turns back to him and says, “I don’t know what you did, but I stepped on a duck!”


The humor in this joke is found mainly in that it is making fun of a specific person who is known to those present in the group.  The joke also demonstrates an active license to tease.  Neil and Chuck have been friends long enough that Chuck is permitted to make these sorts of jokes at Neil’s expense.  Notably, the three main players in this joke are males whereas the three women are objects either to be revolted or desired.

Death and Valor


Chuck Madden, 64, owns an asphalt plant in Texas and considers himself “white.”  He shared this joke over dinner. Chuck learned this joke while in the army.


One day, this guy dies and goes on up to heaven.  Well, as always, St. Pete greet him at the gates and takes him on a grand tour of the place.  As they’re goin along, Pete asks him, “so, uh, in your life on earth, did you ever get the chance to do anything really brave?  Like, something valorous.”  And this guy says, “Well, yeah.  As a matter of fact, I did.  You see, there was this woman who was trying to get to her car outside the supermarket, but before she got there she got blocked by these big, ol’ bikers.  These guys had muscles out to here [indicates size of muscles].  So I ran over and told them to let her through.”  Then St. Pete looks at him and says, “Wow, that was really brave.  When did that happen?” And the guy says, “About five minutes ago.”


This joke, in addition to providing humor, fulfills a secondary purpose in warning against pride, foolish valor, and fighting a losing battle.  In many ways, it discourages people from doing something stupid for the sake of honor and “courage.”  It is not surprising, then, that Chuck learned this while in the army serving in Vietnam.

Reverse Knock-Knock Joke


Maximilian Gardner, 14, is a freshman in high school, and considers himself “Caucasian.”  He plays football and basketball at his high school.  Max learned the following knock-knock joke from one of his teammates on the football team and then performed it with the basketball team after practice.


Max: Hey, you wanna hear a knock-knock joke?

Teammate: Sure.

Max: Ok.  Say knock-knock.

Teammate: Knock-knock.

Max: Who’s there?

Friend: …


This knock-knock joke reverses the traditional convention of knock-knock jokes by inverting the sequence of events.  By having the listener start with “Knock-knock,” he tricks them into taking on the role of the performer.  Thus, when Max responds “Who’s there?” they are left without an answer and the joke is on them.