Joke – California

Sick of being criticized, the police decided to try to pick out a few outstanding drivers and reward them for their good driving habits, as opposed to only punishing the bad drivers. After a month of careful observation, ten officers were sent to reward the designated good drivers.

One officer found his lucky driver, pulled him over, and explained the situation to the nervous driver. “You’ve just earned a reward of one hundred dollars for your excellent driving!” he said, “just out of curiosity, what are you going to do with the money?”

Delighted, the driver announced, “I’m going to go get a drivers’ license!”

Horrified, his wife said, “Please, officer, don’t believe him—he’s drunk!”

With a sigh of defeat, one of the passengers in the back exclaimed, “I knew we’d get caught in the stolen car!”

As the disgusted police officer began to whip out his pen, there could be heard an impatient knock from the back of the car.

“Ey, we cross the border yet?”

(this last line was performed with an exaggerated Spanish accent)

Mary learned this joke from a Hispanic friend in California. She believes that her friend also learned it in California. She says she performs this casually to her friends when they are exchanging jokes. When asked what she thought it means, she said she thinks “it’s basically a joke about illegal immigrants,” and that it’s funny because the people in the car keep unwittingly revealing their secrets that they were hoping to conceal.

Could there be a timelier joke? It is probably no accident that this joke is circulating whilst anti-immigrant sentiments are growing stronger. I agree with Mary that it is funny because of the way the driver and passengers talk themselves into trouble, but I think that the main feature of this joke is that it obscures the identity of these poor, witless folks until the very end. The punch line is a punch line in that it suddenly reveals that they are undocumented immigrants trying sneak in. Admittedly, I gave a hearty laugh when I heard this joke, and I still do not think that the joke is particularly mean-spirited—but after some analysis, I now believe that this joke unfortunately reinforces some negative stereotypes that circulate in California. We are painted a picture of this pack of people crammed into a car, including into the trunk, and they have broken law after law after law. Not only is the driver driving drunk and without a license, they have actually stolen the car. Up until the last line, the listener may or may not have suspected that they were Latin American immigrants, but when we hear the last line it is almost as though we slap our foreheads and go ‘Why of course! Who else would nonchalantly break all the laws and load an entire mob into a single car?’

It is hard to laugh too hard now; these are very damaging stereotypes for the Latin American community, and the joke seems to use humor to confirm them quietly in our minds while we are caught off guard amidst the laughter. And it almost strangely sounds like an argument for the rising anti-immigrant attitude in the US.