Tag Archives: humor

Hole in the Fence

CONTEXT: PK is a student who previously attended USC. This is a “scary story” of an
unexplained occurrence that happened before he was a student. When he moved into the location at which it occurred, he was told this story by a previous resident. PK views this story as entirely true and a staple of USC folklore. He believes the origin of the story to be from about half a decade before he left and heard this story from a past housemate who lived with someone who lived in the house at the assumed time of the story.

Back in the days of yore… Well, long, long, long ago in the history of USC, where students have lived for many, many years in a dwelling on Orchard Avenue, there was a strange occurrence. Since the house abutted an apartment building to the back there was a tall – twelve-foot-tall – chain-linked fence between the two properties. One ancient guy, supposedly, legend says, cut a hole in the fence for easier egress in the event of a fire, or other emergency. And, as soon as the property manager found out, they came in and they called a construction company, and they closed up the hole with zip ties. And life went on as normal, and two weeks later, they received another call, the property manager, that there was another hole in the fence. And they started to talk to the house, like, “Are you guys cutting a hole in the fence? Like, what’s going on?” And
they denied it because at first, they didn’t know what he was talking about. And so, this time they came back in with chain link, and they put chain links together to hold the fence together, and they put another layer of fence over it – the old fence – to be doubly as thick. You know, life went on as normal, and continued, and nothing out of the ordinary until one day when the electrician came, they found another hole in the back of the fence. And so, this time the property manager had to know, and they said, “You know, this is ridiculous. We don’t have any evidence that you guys are cutting a hole in the back of the fence but if this is you, you have to stop it.” And so, this time they put a metal cage over the fence. They put bars all the way over the fence, a half inch thick, steel bars going all the way across. And they thought that they solved it, they thought, “There’s no way they’re going to cut through this. This is ridiculous.” Sure enough, two weeks later, again, just like clockwork, there was a huge hole cut in the bars. It was actually that this time they were bent as if some giant baboon had ripped apart the half
inch steel bars. So, the property manager was like, “this is ridiculous.” And so, they put in a camera. They were like “We’re going to catch whoever is doing this.” They put in the camera, they replaced the metal bars, and this time they poured a one-foot-wide section of concrete, for the entire 30-foot-long property line, ten feet tall. And two weeks later, just again, nothing on the camera, and there was a hole blasted through the concrete, as if by dynamite, and that hole is still there to this day. You know, the obvious thought was that it was done by the guy who originally cut the hole in the fence, but there were twelve people living in the house at the time and nobody ever reported hearing a sound that would go with breaking a whole huge hole through concrete. The story has just been passed down generation to generation.
I think IM, who lived there many years ago, whispered the story to me one night.

ANALYSIS: This story seems to have been told to both entertain a new resident, and maybe make him a little uneasy in a new environment. New places often hold secrets that a new resident may not know about, and this story, and the way in which it was told capitalize on that feeling of uncertainty. It is not a particularly scary story, but it follows the structure of a scary story or urban legend, providing an explanation for a visible part of the house (the hole in the concrete). The word choice, drawing attention to how long ago it was supposed to occur, the strength of the barriers, and the reference to a creature like a baboon, are all comical in this situation, though an ancient place with a strong, unseen creature, seems more like the set up to a scary story. No one has been able to confirm any part of this story, other than that the hole is there. The use of dialogue is interesting, in light of this, because it is the narrator’s own
interpretation of how that conversation would probably go.

I Can See Clearly Now

CONTEXT: DM is a current USC student who attended a North Carolina Christian sleep-away camp in the summer of 2011. This is a narrative joke that she heard from the head of camp, Jimbo. She heard this during Jimbo’s “Breakfast Club” during which he talked about God and told jokes. DM interprets this as a joke and a pun.

Alright, so one time there was this kid named Jim who lived in the fine, fine city of
Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was just coming up into high school, and in his
sophomore year of high school he’d just started to get a little bit interested in girls. And
there was this one girl in his English class that he really liked, and her name was
Lorraine. And he thought “oh my gosh, what an interesting name.” She was beautiful,
she had, like, beautiful eyes, beautiful hair, she was smart. They start talking. They
eventually start going on dates, and at first, everything’s awesome. Y’know, they’re
going on dates, hanging out all the time, getting to know each other, and then right
around when he says, “I love you,” world stops. Everything changes. And now, she is all
over him all of the time. She does not get off his case, is blowing up his phone while
he’s in class, while he’s at home, while he’s at work. And, like, he cannot get away from
this girl and it starts driving him crazy to the point where he goes “I think I need to break
up with this girl, but I don’t know how.” Same time, about halfway through his school
year, they get a transfer student from abroad. And she’s from some hippy-dippy
European family, whatever… she shows up in school and says that her name is Clearly,
and instantly AH, by-God, Jim is just struck over with love. He is falling head over heels
in a second, and he has forgotten completely about Lorraine. He is all about Clearly. All
he has to do is do it. So, he decides “What do I have to do? How can I sweeten the
deal? How can I make this go over without her actually killing me?” And he decides
“Alright, I’ll take her to the finest site in the city of Chattanooga – the Chattanooga River.”
Which, if you’re familiar, just is laden with the most beautiful., impressive, walls and
walls of concrete and big steel churning dams, and puffs of black smoke, and trash
floating all down the river in beautiful colorful sequence. And he takes her down to the
river, and he starts going “Well, y’know, I don’t… I don’t… I don’t really know how to say
this but I, um, I’ve been feeling…” and she’s going “yes?” As they’re walking, he sees
something cool in the river and he thinks “oh my god, what a great opportunity to
change the subject, ‘cause I cannot do this right now.” And he points in the water, and
he goes “Look!” And she turns around and leans over and falls into the river. And she
floats away and eventually drowns in the river. How sad. Oh my gosh. And he’s thinking
as he starts to call the police “Oh my gosh my girlfriend just fell in the Chattanooga
River. She’s probably suffocating on some plastic right now. How sad is this.” And then,
a thought crosses his mind, and he starts singing to himself as he walks away down the
river, “I can see Clearly now, Lorraine is gone.” (To the tune of I Can See Clearly Now
by Creedence Clearwater Revival)

ANALYSIS: This is a narrative joke in which the punchline is a play on a popular song from the 1970s. It is a play on words of the concept of seeing visually versus “seeing” someone in a romantic sense. The set up uses the names of two of the characters, Clearly and Lorraine, which doesn’t seem to be important until the punchline. It also relies on the similarity in sound between “Lorraine” and “the rain.” The punchline is sung so that the audience recalls the music it is based on. The joke will only work if the audience is familiar with the song. Knowing the storyteller, it is clear to me which parts of the story were added or embellished based on her personal preferences and style. It is a great example of how details are changed through oral tradition, even when the basic premise of the joke remains the same. It is also interesting that the main character of the joke, Jim, shares a name with the person DM heard the joke from
originally. It is the only character whose name has no bearing on the punchline. I wonder if that character has a different name in other versions of this joke, or if his shared name is a coincidence. It is also a “clean” joke, suitable for an audience of children at a Christian summer camp.

Waving Hare

CONTEXT: DM is a current USC student who attended a North Carolina Christian sleep-away camp in the summer of 2011. This is a narrative joke that she heard from the head of camp, Jimbo. She heard this during Jimbo’s “Breakfast Club” during which he talked about God and told jokes. DM interprets this as a funny story specific to her camp.

Alright, this story starts out with a mom in a very, very expensive neighborhood in a
place called Buckwood, in Atlanta. And Buckwood, like across the American South is
just known as, like, THE, THE Heights, like the most rich suburban neighborhood in that
entire area of the US. So, if you say Buckwood, people know what it is, so… It starts
with a Buckwood mom, who is driving back from dropping off her kids at school and
she’s like a good Christian Mom. She’s described as going to the same summer camp
as we went to, super moral, upright character, has really good kids, godly woman, like…
family…. All this stuff. And she’s driving down the neighborhood, and one thing that she
really, really cared about was animals. Like, she volunteered at a vet clinic, and had a
bunch of dogs in her own house, just really, really loved them. So, it was super
unfortunate that when she was driving home, she hit a little bunny with her car. It just
ran right across the road, too fast, before she could stop. And she frantically gets out of
the car, runs over to the bunny, and it is just not looking good. He is just lights out,
y’know, and there’s no signs of damage but she doesn’t know what to do and she freaks
out. And she runs back into her car and is frantically looking around for something to
help this bunny, something that she could do, and she grabs a bottle from her car
console. And right as she’s running back to the bunny, she can see that its’ not going
well. She doesn’t really have a lot of hope, but she’s like “let me try this one last thing. I
think I have this magical trick that I think really could work.” And she sprays the bunny
all up and down. At this time, another parent in the neighborhood pulls over, ‘cause they could see that there was a dead animal and a mom in distress. So, the neighbor pulls over on the side of the road, right as she’s spraying the rabbit. And they get out of the car, and they’re like “what is going on?” And she’s like “just wait for it, wait for it.” And the other person is really confused ‘cause they’re like “why does it smell like cosmetics out here, and what is she spraying this rabbit with?” And suddenly, before they can think more about what’s going on, the rabbit suddenly… the leg twitches. Just a little bit, but it’s enough for them to both stop talking and just notice it and look at it. And the leg twitch kinda keeps on happening and is getting stronger and stronger and suddenly, both of its legs are kicking, and suddenly one of its ears picks up, and then two, and then the entire bunny perks its head up and springs back to life like nothing happened. And it starts to run away from the road and starts to run back into the bushes. And as it’s running away, it was doing the most bizarre thing. It ran away, would turn around to the both of them, and then wave. And then it would take a couple more steps, turn around, and then wave. And then do the same thing, until they couldn’t see it anymore. And they go “Oh my gosh, that is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. What did you spray that rabbit with?” And she reads the label, and it says, “HAIR [hare] SPRAY – PERMANENT WAVE – REVITALIZING EXTRA POWER.” And that’s the joke.

ANALYSIS: Something I noticed in the structure of this narrative joke was the use of the word “and.” The narrative uses the word frequently, which I believe helps the audience stay engaged because it removes any breaks in the story. It is also interesting to me that the woman in the story is given a lot of personal traits that seem to have been meant to speak to the personal experience of the audience where it was told at this camp. The emphasis on religion and the use of a specific location would make this story and character even more lively in the minds of the audience. This joke is an example of a play on words, with “hair” and “hare” sounding the same when spoken aloud.

Bitten by a Black Widow… on his Genitals


My father has been an electrician for SoCal Edison for the past two decades. His job involves traveling around the Southern California desert inspecting isolated electrical substations. He is an avid oral storyteller, and his stories often come from the blue-collar line of work that he finds himself in. This is one of such stories about his good work friend who suffered a black widow bite to his testicles while using a porta potty in one of these desert stations. A white man leathered by the sun, my father colors the story by imitating the Mexican accent of his friend, including certain Mexican Spanish slang terms like “cabrón.” This is a story I’ve heard many times, but it didn’t fail to make me cry with laughter during this recording. The story has become a legend among electricians in Southern California, which is what made me think of it for this archive. He told me this story over dinner at my family home in this particular iteration.


SS: The Legend of Hector the Electrician. They were working out at a, at a facility. He had another guy with him. And we were, we had a crew of about eight people, ten people. And they were working together, and I was working somewhere else with somebody else. And they were out in the middle of the desert. And if we work safely for a month, we get a safety lunch, paid [for us to go] out to lunch somewhere. And so I had just gotten to Home Depot for something. I was sitting the parking lot, getting ready to leave. And I get a call from Hector.

SS: And he says, “Hey, cabrón. Just forget about the safety lunch this month.” I said, “What did you do?” And he goes, “Okay, I got bit by a spider.”

SS: And I said, that’s the first question, right? “Where’d you get bit?” He said, “In the balls.” And I said, “No, come on. Just stop messing with me. Tell me what happened.”

SS: “[Imitating his friend] No, cabrón, it’s true!” And I started laughing so hard. I couldn’t drive, I had to stop. I was laughing so hard. And he says “It’s not funny!” Yes, I’m still laughing, and I said, “Well, how’d you know it was a spider? I guess both you and that spider felt a little prick.”

SS: So he was working with this other guy. And his, this guy’s name was Roberto. And he said, “Well, I was lucky I had Roberto along to suck out the poison.” ‘Berto’s in the background saying, “Hell no, that’s not true!” So anyway, he went into an outhouse and sat down on the outhouse in the middle of this dusty desert and there was a black widow spider up underneath–up underneath the toilet rim–barely. Black widow spiders don’t like being ‘teabagged.’ So he did it and he got bit. So we got pictures of him being carried off of an ambulance with a big-big-bag of ice on his balls on a gurney, so, and he was off for a couple days. And then the jokes started flying around, about, because we all knew his wife, about, you know, what happens now, you know? Instead of shooting, you know, [explicit gesture] when he’s, when they’re like getting intimate now, is he like, sticking on the walls? [laughter]

SS: And, and, so you know, it was a good laugh and then and then when he came back, we got his hard hat, we put spiders on it, we put like spider webs all over his desk and everything else. And and and we just, we just made it all up.

SS: So he came back, and kind of a full circle to the story: Sometime later, I was working with a different group of people and I was working in this office and there was these contractors. They’re doing something entirely different–but electrical–and we were talking about, you know, different things we’ve seen, you know, rattlesnakes and things, you know, these guys work outside in the field also. And one of the guys was just sitting there eating lunch and one of those contractors I’d never met before says, “[imitating] There’s this legend about this guy out in the desert that got bit in the balls by a black widow spider. But it’s probably an old wive’s tale.”

SS: And I go, “So let me tell you a story!” [laughter] So that’s a story of Hector and the black widow spider.


I chose to include this story in the archive because it is direct evidence of how a true story can become legend. This is indeed a true story; my father works directly with Hector, and I have been over to his house–which is in my neighborhood–for pool parties many times. But the story had the perfect makings to become legend among SoCal Edison electricians and contractors.

The environment, subject, and folklore group are key in understanding the spread of this story as legend. Electricians and contractors in Southern California often come into contact with dangerous wildlife like rattlesnakes and black widow spiders regularly, especially when they are working out in the isolated desert. Thus, the fear of being bitten by a venomous spider is something that resonates among this group, and the idea of being bitten in the testicles is something that is particularly fantastical. It is so fantastical, in fact, that it escaped the boundaries of “fact,” separating from its original subject to become a “wive’s tale.” Instead, the subject becomes a nondescript male electrician, someone who can easily be identified with among the folk group that shares the legend. The legend itself might serve as a warning to electricians who find themselves using porta potties in remote locations to always check under the seat before sitting down.

Dumb Joke Turned Rivalry

J is a freshman studying Journalism at University of Southern California but grew up in Maryland.

J: “‘I could prove you’re dumb.’
And I was like ‘How?’
And he was like ‘Do you wanna play a game?’
And I’m like ‘Sure.’
And he says ‘Sure. Just remember everything I said. So what’s the color of the sky?’
I was like ‘blue.’
‘What’s the color of the grass?’
‘What’s one plus one?’
‘What’s the first question I asked?’
And I would say ‘What’s the color of the sky?’ ’cause I thought that was the first question he asked. But, he was like ‘No.’ It’s ‘Did you wanna play a game?'”

“So I play this with my cousin during childhood. He’s like a boy, so we always had this gendered rivalry almost…and so, that was his way to prove that I was dumber than him because I fell for his trick. But basically, it just became a lighthearted thing where even after I knew the joke, we would still repeat it to each other just for fun. And I started doing this to a bunch of people, like my friends, and I would feel this satisfaction when they also fell for it ’cause it’s just like a little joke and it’s so easy to fool people with it.”

This joke is a practical joke, where it is played on the unassuming and clueless audience. It also serves as an initiation into the know, wherein after the audience hears it once, they can then play it on other people and the cycle repeats itself, inadvertently spreading the joke as folklore. This joke is lighthearted and there is no inherent deeper meaning behind the so-called “testing of intelligence” rather than just finding humor in a harmless mistake. However, in certain situations, this joke can easily become volatile. It uses logic and the lack of attention span as reasoning for intelligence, making the listener easily frustrated. As J talks about this in context, she says how this joke helped spur on a gender battle between her and her cousin. Practical jokes create temporary rivalries or tensions between groups. These tensions are relieved in the punchline, but require that initial stupidity to let the humor hit, which can easily offend. What’s important about these jokes is the atmosphere and context in which they are told to avoid anger or offense.