My informant learned this joke from his dad, who himself was a doctor. It was passed to my informant when he was a young man. His father claimed he was the originator of the joke and that he really performed it himself, as the doctor in the joke was a colleague and friend. While my informant can’t validate that claim, he says that he tends to believe it because his father was always a prankster during his life.
This occurrence is supposed to have originally happened sometime in the 1950s during a physical exam that was being performed on my informant’s father. While I was an interview for USC’s folklore collection, my friend (and the informant’s grandson) entered the room and said something about how he had a doctor’s appointment the next day. This reminded my informant of the joke, and he proceeded to tell it.
“My dad went in for a physical. When he went to the bathroom to give a urine sample, he had snuck in a flask of warm, flat beer. So instead of peeing in the cup he poured the warm flat beer in the cup. So when he came back out he put it on the counter… When the doctor stuck the litmus paper into the cup–that’s how they used to test pee samples–he says “wow your alcohol levels are off the charts, we’re gonna have to run the test again.” As my dad knocked the cup of beer back he announced, “let’s just run it through again.”
Personally, I think this joke is hilarious on its own, but I would also consider it to be a stunning example of how workplace folklore is created. Assuming that my informant’s father actually did play this prank on one of his doctor colleagues, it shows that getting to know people in a work setting often opens a door to real friendship. My informant’s father probably chose to get a physical from this doctor because they had spent time in close quarters getting to know each other first. While the man performing the stunt may not have been on duty at the time, the interaction between the two likely became something that was frequently talked about and shared between their fellow medical professionals–my informant made it a point to mention that his father loved telling the joke.