Plane Crash Joke

The informant grew up in Southern California and spent a lot of time in and around planes. His father is a pilot and he is also the first person who told him the joke. Although the inclusion of a plane is more of a device to produce humor, the joke could be considered a piece of pilot’s lore.

Informant: “Uhm…let’s see…alright. So, a plane crashes right on the border of the  U.S.-Canadian border. Right in the middle, no closer to one side than the other. Where do you bury the survivors?”

Interviewer: “Uh…wherever they’re from?”

Informant: “No”

Interviewer:”Um…I don’t know”

Informant: “You don’t bury them because they survived”

The informant was told this joke by his father when he was a young child. He calls it a “gotcha” joke because it is actually a very simple, straightforward question disguised as a clever riddle. When it is asked, one does not initially think that there is anything humorous about the riddle; the answer seems to be a logistical question about the burying the dead. When the answer is revealed  the person being told the joke is supposed to be embarrassed that he or she was unable to answer this easy question. The informant remembers being fooled by it the first time his father told it to him, and that feeling of being “had” stayed with him, imprinting the joke in his memory. Although it does deal with death, the riddle’s impact does not come entirely from the incongruity of morbidity and humor, but rather the incongruity of being stumped by a question anyone should be able to answer. Everyone knows that survivors are not buried; the way it is phrased leads one to overlook this fact in favor of a more complicated answer.