Post-Joke Toe-Grabbing

The Informant is 21 years old, is a junior at USC studying Screenwriting, and is from Chicago, Illinois.

Me: Okay, so explain what just happened!

Him: Well, we’re all comedians in this house so we like to tell jokes. So we have a lot of joke competitions? It actually started in my dorm with my freshman year roommate. Whenever someone came over and jokes started being told, and mind you, they’re usually SUPER cheesy…just sad jokes…we’d have the guest pick which joke was funniest between me and my roommate. Whoever the guest deemed had told the funnier joke had to have their toes pulled by the losing joker. Don’t ask me how we decided to do that. I think we were pretty drunk and thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world.

Me: So, what do you do now?

Him: Well, now I live with 5 dudes, including my freshman year roommate, so we brought it with us not thinking it would really stick. And now there are ALWAYS people over, so that toe-pulling thing happens all of the time now. It caught on! We’re always just yanking on each others’ feet. It’s embarrassing. Don’t ask me why we do it *laughs*.

Me: Who usually wins?

Him: The person who comes up with the wittiest pun, typically. It’s whoever the guest chooses, also! We don’t really even think about it anymore. The people that come over also know the process now, too, so jokes will be told and someone will  just shout “M*******!” and I have to go pull M*******’s toes for him. Actually, people don’t even have to be over and we’ll just do it between ourselves. It’s rare that I get my toes pulled though *laughs*.


This presents an unique folk gesture by involving competition, humor, and an atypical interaction of body parts. The informant seemed almost embarrassed of his house’s little ritual because of how ridiculous even HE thought it was. I remember when it was first performed I was so confused by the course of events. I looked over at the informant after I deemed him the winner, and he turned red with embarrassment at the little ritual of his toes being pulled. Yet, despite his embarrassment, he clearly enjoyed the ritual in the the ways that it brings him closer to his roommates and friends. This shows that a lot of pride can be created from the establishment of a ritual, despite whatever level of ridiculousness it may involve. It’s this exact reason that we always play pranks on someone when it’s their birthday, why clubs have embarrassing inductions for their new members, and why college seniors always try to pull of the biggest school prank. Though they may be embarrassing at times, these rituals create a self-established sense of pride among those involved.