“Ollie and Lena jokes are this category of jokes based in the Midwest. And there’s this one that’s: Ollie and Lena live on this farm in South Dakota and uh Ollie has to go to town um to go to market. So he goes to the market to buy a bull. So he buys a bull but then, Lena stayed on the farm, but he needs Lena to come and pick up the bull from town…he has to stay in town so he decides to send her a telegram. So he goes to the telegraph office and he realizes that the telegraph is by the word. And that he only has ten cents and it’s ten cents a word. So he thinks about it for a while and he comes up with this great idea and he writes this one word and he pays his ten cents and he sends it to Lena so Lena gets the telegram. She looks at it and she reads it. It’s one word, and the word is: comfortable. So she’s like ‘Com-for-ta-ble.’ So she’s like ‘Yes!’ So she goes to the market and she gets the bull. I heard that joke from my uncle Jean I believe but my dad’s whole family sorta knows a whole bunch of them. They’re mostly told in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota…it’s like a Mid-West region kinda thing. It’s like um a region full of Norwegian immigrants who are not immigrants anymore. It wasn’t populated really that long ago since it started in later states and stuff. A lot of Scandinavian people live there, Norwegian people and German people and um so they’d circulate it amongst themselves like Norwegian people would tell the jokes about themselves. Like Ollie and Lena are Norwegian, and they would tell them about themselves. It’s like a self-deprecating thing, it’s like they sorta humble themselves and don’t take themselves really seriously you know? Even though they might work hard, they don’t think of themselves as, like…they just wanna keep themselves down to earth. The Midwest is a very, like, down to earth, stick-to-the-basics kinda place. Ollie and Lena jokes often have a lot of Norwegian culture in them like lefsa will appear in them or bars or things about farming and all that. And they do stuff that is really typical and stereotypical of Norwegian people. The punchline of this joke is basically derived from the fact that um immigrants or Norwegian people don’t necessarily have a very good accent, I know even now people in the Midwest have an accent and do weird things with their ‘Os’…so one of the things we would say is ‘fer’ instead of ‘for’ and ‘da’ instead of ‘the’ so ‘com-for-ta-ble’ sounds exactly like ‘come for the bull’ to them.”

I find it interesting that even though this joke makes fun of the accent spoken in the Midwest, it seems from Sarah’s account that Ollie and Lena jokes are something that Norwegians and people from the Midwest are proud of. To them, it’s a form of identification because one can tell if another person if from Midwest or is Norwegian if they have knowledge of these jokes. These Ollie and Lena jokes are very exclusive and imply that you have to be from that region to understand and appreciate them.