Joke – Irvine, California

“How many dead babies does it take to paint a wall?

Depends how hard you throw them!”

Gruesome and disturbing, “dead baby jokes” are nonetheless becoming increasingly popular in contemporary society.  Dealing with the death of infants and how they are treated, these kinds of jokes never fail to shock or horrify their listeners.  Aaron told me that he first learned of dead baby jokes during his senior year of high school, when he and his fellow cross-country team members would exchange jokes and humorous musings to pass the time during warm-up stretches.  Aaron also mentioned that girls were rarely present when the jokes were told, if at all, and that for this group of guys, telling sexist, racist, “yo momma” and dead baby jokes was a method of boosting camaraderie and killing the tediousness of routine exercise.  Upon first hearing a dead baby joke, Aaron recalled that he felt caught between laughing and shaking his head in disapproval while simultaneously marveling at the joke itself (My own reaction was actually very similar to his.)

While at first the dead baby joke may seem utterly horrible and completely inappropriate, one must look at the world and times in which it is emerging.  As examined in such works as Peter Narváez’s novel Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture, jokes about death and destruction represent “the convergence of humor and death” and dead baby jokes are not an exception.  Often, jokes about death can serve as moments of brief psychological coping, and are becoming more and more pervasive because of the media and Internet.  Also, jokes like the dead baby ones are prime examples of the idea that jokes can be representative of the freeing of repressed impulses by polite society.  It is my opinion that dead baby jokes are so absurd and horrific but at the same time unforgettable and unique because they cross the line and dare to step into forbidden territory.