Dead Baby Jokes

Informant: I know a lot of dead baby jokes, unfortunately.

Collector: Do you remember any of them offhand?

Informant: I do, actually. They’re all coming back to me. Um, what’s red and silver and keeps running into circles? Or, sorry, circling into walls?

Collector: What?

Informant: A baby with forks in its eyes.

Collector: (gasps). Oh no!

Informant: What gets redder and redder and shorter and shorter?

Collector: What? (muffled by hand over mouth in fear)

Informant: A baby combing its hair with a potato peeler.

Collector: (screams).

Informant: (chuckles at Collector’s reaction).

Collector: These are horrible! I have not heard these before. Like, I’ve heard dead baby jokes before but much more tame!

Informant: Oh yeah. These got terrible.

Collector: …Do you have any more?

Informant: Yeah. Why’d the baby fall out of the tree?

Collector: Why?

Informant: Because it was dead. Why’d the koala fall out of the tree?

Collector: Why?

Informant: Because it was stapled to the baby. Why’d the giraffe die?

Collector: Why?

Informant: The tree fell on him.

Collector: Oh my God.

Informant: Which, you know, doesn’t make sense because why are the giraffes in Australia?

Collector: Yeah. Where’d you hear these? Just in high school going around?

Informant: Yeah! Well, I found them all online.

Collector: You found them online?

Informant: You just look up ‘Dead baby jokes’ and there’s your repertoire of however many dead baby jokes.

Collector: So you took time out of your day to look these up?

Informant: Yep! I took time out of my day to find them. And I told them to people and the ones that I just told you were the best of the best.

Collector’s Notes: We talked a bit about dead baby jokes in class when we talked about humor, and we noted that they come up a lot in booms of baby births.  I also think that it is another way of breaking the tension that comes with talking around taboo topics, such as death, and more seriously, infant death.  It something that has always been a part of our culture, but is seldom really talked about.  People avoid talking about it at all costs, really.  But people can use these jokes to bring up a taboo subject, and talk about it in a way that isn’t tip-toeing around being politically correct or PG.  It’s also a display of a dichotomy of themes.  Mostly people connect babies with the idea of purity and innocence, and murder as the complete opposite.  We take something soft and sweet to heighten to effect of the really horrible topic by contrast.  Also, I think that they’ve been perpetuated because of the clear divide about feelings toward the jokes.  Some are very, very offended, and others think that the conservative need to lighten up and “take a joke.”

What else is interesting about this is the combination of cyberlore and actual word-of-mouth.  In this case, the Informant went online to find jokes that they could later share in person with their friends at school.  I imagine it was a trend and therefore there was more effort put into finding and sharing them.  This is a way that the internet and person-to-person interaction mesh into one being.