INFORMANT: “Who is the only person on set to survive an earthquake?”
COLLECTOR: “I don’t know. Who?”
I: “The runner. You know why?”
C: “No. Why?”
I: “He’s always standing in doorways!”
This occupational joke was collected from a young man with whom I worked on a couple of film sets, who seemed to have an endless supply of quips to be used in the car, during lunch break, and even during the little down time there is in between takes. Like almost all filmmaking jokes I have heard, it is at the expense of a specific group of workers. Although these can be slightly cruel, there are plenty of jokes for every department of a film crew, so although they do most often focus on actual grievances people have with other departments, they are always told in good nature. The expectation is that everyone will get made fun of.
This particular joke operates on two levels. It makes fun of the runner, a position even lower down than the frequently belittled production assistant. Because they are frequently considered just an extra body on set, not serving a real important purpose, they are easy targets. The main joke, is that runners are always just standing around, getting in more significant people’s ways. The deeper level of the joke, is about the selfish excitement with which they do this; those low-level positions are frequently considered over-eager and just looking for advancement.