Elderly Person-Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: African American
Age: 14
Occupation: High School Student
Residence: Fresno, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2011
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

There was an elderly married couple. The husband had been having trouble with his memory lately so his wife took him to the doctor. The doctor told him that maybe he should start writing stuff down so that he could remember things. Then the couple went home. While at home the wife asked her husband, “Dear would you get me some strawberry ice cream with whip cream from the kitchen?” So her husband gets up to go get it, but before he can leave his wife asks, ” Are you sure you don’t need me to write it down so that you can remember everything?” And he says, “I don’t need you to write anything down, I can remember something small like this”. So goes into the kitchen and he is gone for a really long time. When he comes back he brings a plate with bacon, eggs, and toast on it. His wife stares at the plate and says, “See?! I told you write it down. I knew you would forget. I said that I wanted sausage not bacon”

My informant first heard this joke from a friend at school. He thought it was funny because not only did the old man forget what he was doing, his wife also forgot what she had said. He thinks people tell it because it’s a stereotype associated with the elderly that they often forget things.

I agree with my informant. Forgetfulness is a stereotype associated with the elderly in American culture, as well being frail, tired, and that they are always complaining, as well as being stubborn and stuck in their ways. The punchline of this joke makes use of the forgetfulness aspect of the stereotype. But why do Americans like to tell and listen to old people jokes? American culture seems to have grown some disdain toward the elderly. Older people are often seen as a drain and a burden to their children and grandchildren who take care of them. They are often characterized as chronically ill and useless as family members. Which might have something to do with America being a future oriented culture according to Alan Dundes (Dundes, 1969). The elderly aren’t considered to have a future. So it has become socially acceptable to make jokes about the elderly and their stereotypical shortcomings.