Russian Joke

Text: So my grandfather told me this joke that there were two old Russian guys driving through the forest. And, the guy in the passenger seat told the driver, “Hey, you need to pull over.” And the driver’s like, “Well, we can’t pull over, we’re not, we’re not where we’re supposed to be yet.” The passenger goes, “Look,” he goes, “I need you to pull over.” The driver goes, “But we’re in the middle of nowhere.” The passenger goes, “Look, I have to go to the bathroom. You have to pull over.” So, the driver pulls over, the guy gets out of the car, and he heads into the woods. A few minutes later, the passenger comes back to the car, and his pants are soaking wet. The driver looks at him and says, “What’s a matter? You didn’t make it in time?” He answers, “Nah, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.”

Context: AT is a child of Russian and Italian immigrants that grew up in Queens, New York. He would spend the summers in Maine surrounded by dense forest and vast natural landscapes, with is Russian grandparents who insisted that he learn Russian so that they could converse in their native language with their grandson. He has been a fluent speaker ever since then because of their teachings. His grandfather used to tell him this jokes as they were driving through the forests during the harsh main winters. I was told this joke over coffee one afternoon.

 Interpretation: Jokes area very popular form of folklore that can take on different forms in different societies.  The use of punch-lines in the telling of jokes can be largely recognized as an American behavior, for a lot of cultures don’t do punch-lines, rather they just tell funny stories. I expect that this is the case here, for when AT told me the joke for the first time, I didn’t really laugh because I thought the punchline was weak. I expected that perhaps the punch line was funnier in Russian, but now I expect that there is no punchline, only a funny story.

This joke still employs the cognitive switch technique that all jokes share. It sets up something in the beginning only to turn it on its head by the end. The entire story builds the idea that the passenger needs to use the bathroom, and that he will wet himself if the driver does not pull over and let him go into the woods to do his business. However, when the passenger finally gets his chance, he makes a mess anyways, cognitively switching the joke on its head.