Bosco Tjan

Item (direct transcription):

So, the professor was something like a computer visions expert, right?

So the joke was, if he’s such a visions expert, why didn’t he see this coming?

Background Information:

The informant read this joke on Facebook; it was posted by someone from USC (the University of Southern California).

Bosco Tjan was a USC professor who was murdered by one of his students in 2016. The joke refers to those events.

Contextual Information:

The informant expressed that he would only tell the joke to someone he knew well and thought wouldn’t be offended.


This joke fits the common pattern of jokes forming in response to tragic events. Interestingly, though, in this case the event was not a national or widely publicized—it would only make sense to members of the USC community.

Thus, the joke is a counter-example to Christie Davies’ hypothesis from “Jokes That Follow Mass-Mediated Disasters in a Global Electronic Age” (from the book “Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture,” 2003). Davies claims that jokes about tragic events form as a counter-impulse to hegemonic pressure from the mass media (particularly television) to feel sorrow for strangers. There was no such hegemonic pressure after the murder of Bosco Tjan, yet this joke formed anyways.