Tag Archives: humor

Batman Jingle Bells

Background

The informant is a freshman at USC and is originally from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She is the roommate of a fellow informant and offered to be interviewed when I went to their apartment to conduct my interview. She has no specific religious affiliations nor does she identify with any ethnic subgroup within the United States. She is referred to as “BS”.

Context

I asked about any humorous jingles or tunes that the informant was aware of.

Content

“Jingle bells

Batman smells

Robin laid an egg

Batmobile lost its wheel

and the joker played ballet.”

I don’t know if that’s where it ends. Is that where it ends? Cause that’s all I remember- the kids singing it on the school bus. School bus was horrible.

Analysis

This rendition of Jingle Bells, using Batman characters, is fairly ubiquitous among children. The origins of it are unknown, but most kids know some version of it. I personally heard a different version, where the last line is “and the Joker got away”, but that is part of the essence of this tune being folkloric in origin – it doesn’t have one set of lyrics but has options. This tune is also demonstrative of the humor of children; they take things they’re aware of (Jingle Bells and Batman) and make it ridiculous. Jingle Bells is not the only song I’ve heard funny versions of – kids do it to all sorts of songs for fun. Children frequently begin to ridicule or joke about subjects they previously liked as a way to demonstrate their maturity; to show that they are old enough to find those “childish” things ridiculous.  

100 Days Chant

Background

Informant is a friend of mine from high school. She is now a junior at USC. She is a first-generation Vietnamese American, and is from Woodbridge, Virginia. She does not have any specific religious affiliations. We both attended The Madeira School, although she graduated two years before I did. Various alumnae were interviewed to compare versions of the same lore from the school. She is referred to as “AH”.

Context

I asked the informant to recite a chant sung by the seniors at our high school.

Content

Interviewer: Can you recite the Madeira chant senior chant for me?

AH: Oh my God. Wait, hold on the 100 days one?

Interviewer: Yeah.

AH: Do I even remember it? Um, how does it start? Oh!

Hark the Herald angels shout!

A hundred days till we get out!

A hundred days till we are free

from this penitentiary

(While clapping)

back to smoking

back to drinking

back to sex!

and evil thinking

hark the Herald angels shout!

A hundred days till we get out!

Analysis

Unlike the other traditions from Madeira, I only asked AH about this tradition, as it has become “canon” at Madeira. This chant is specifically sung after 100 Days, a special day that marks 100 days to graduation. The seniors perform the chant on 100 Days and at all-school events until graduation, counting down to graduation. For example, if graduation is in 35 days, then 35 would be subbed out in the lyrics instead of 100. The origins of this chant, however, are unknown. It is also questionable about how it became endorsed by the school, as it includes references to illicit behaviors, which are very much not allowed by the school. Unfortunately, I had stopped recording at this point, but AH remarked on the hilarity of the statement “back to”, as if Madeira students had been engaging in those behaviors prior to high school. Madeira is extremely explicit in their policies against drugs, alcohol, and lewd behavior, and gets referred to as “Prison School” by some boarding students due to the strict check-out policies for boarders. This chant is entirely satirical and humorous, poking fun at the school, as well as a tool for the seniors to celebrate their proximity to graduating high school.

Beggars have conditions – Arabic Jokes

Context:

He heard these two jokes when he was a kid in Jordan. There were many little fruit vendors back then, and there were a lot of beggars back then too.

Joke 1:

“A poor man wants to sell fruits on a cart to make some money. So a beggar came to this guy asking for something from his cart for free. The guy looked at him, and gave him a small watermelon. So the beggar said, ‘The smallest one? I thought you were going to give me a bigger one. You know what, you will teach people to not beg from you.’”

Joke 2:

“A beggar goes to a butcher, and asks for a free piece of meat. The butcher goes and cuts a piece for him. The beggar then responds ‘You’re not going to cook it for me?’”

Thoughts:

I found these jokes funny because they switch out the expected expression of gratitude with the opposite: an expression of ingratitude. Because they occupy the space between the expected and unexpected, they get the listeners’ attention, and strike them as funny. Because these jokes sound similar to the English saying “Beggars aren’t choosers,” they could have been used as a build-up to an equivalent saying in Arabic (or just the English saying).

“I stopped sleeping on your lap”… “You saved me from your farts.” – Arabic Saying and Comeback

Context:

She learned it from her grandma in Jordan, when she was around 7 or 8. The first time she heard it was when her grandma asked her if she wanted to sleep over, to which she said that she had to go home. Her grandma then said “Rayahtni min fsak” (“You saved me from your farts”).

Text:

Original Script: بطلت انام بحضنك… ريحتني من فساك

Transliteration: Battalt anam bi hodnak… Rayahtni min fsak

Translation: I stopped sleeping on your lap… You saved me from your farts

Thoughts:

I found this saying-response pair really funny, since not many people think of how often children fart while sitting on an adult’s lap. The first part (“Battalt anam bi hodnak”) sounds like it could be swapped out with any declaration of independence that would make the other person upset. The second part (“Rayahtni min fsak”) is a witty response to the declaration that essentially means “You were a burden to me.” The humor of the response makes it easier for the message to get across without sounding rude, since independence can be a touchy subject in a culture where families are tight-knit.

WORKPLACE PRANKS

MAIN PIECE: 

Informant: Well… So, my coworkers and I like to prank each other, and there was a time when there was this really stink––I can’t remember who started it––but one of us got this stinkiest cheese from the store and hid it in the other one’s desk. And then he hid it in my desk. And then I hid it in his car. Like, I found a spot under the driver seat where I stuffed it up there and he couldn’t ever find it. So I mean, there’s stuff like that. One of the guys also covered my phone in Vaseline and called me and I answered it and freaking shoved a glob of Vaseline in my ear hole… One time I heard that someone was running late for a meeting so I went and parked both of our moving vans on both sides of his car within like three inches. He couldn’t open his doors so I saw him out in the parking lot––he had to open the trunk––it was a station wagon… So he crawled in through the trunk to get to his car. Um… The other thing we’d do is if like the other guy left his door open, we’d like recline the seat…? Because a lot of times when you get in your car you just automatically lean back without looking and so you see him like disappear. It was so funny. Like I did it to him one time, and you know, I saw him like go out to his car and he like went to lean back and he just disappeared. So, I don’t know, just stupid stuff… And we do it to our boss too. Like sometimes when we know he’s going skiing, we pack his boots filled with like popcorn… Uh… Styrofoam popcorn, or uh… We’ll turn his bindings backwards. Or, yeah.   

INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE:

Interviewer: Why do you think you guys do these pranks in the workplace? 

Informant: ‘Cause our job’s boring, and this makes being at work fun… There’s no real reason other than to have fun, you know? We’re all stressed out, we’re all… You know, working hard, and then… All of the sudden you start laughing ‘cause you find a block of stinky cheese under your desk… You know, or someone shrink wraps my entire desk with like computer and everything, like… With this like moving tape… It’s just part of the culture of the office to have fun together… Everyone’s like, you know, we’ll let air out of our boss’ tire when he’s going biking, just… There’s always stuff. 

REFLECTION:

Pranking coworkers is often associated with rites of passage, as the pranks are often geared towards new employees who have yet to be “initiated” into the in-group. Pranks are often associated with thresholds, as demonstrated by trickster characters who are neither entirely good nor entirely bad; they are unstable, liminal figures. This piece, however, demonstrates that pranks are not limited to transitional periods of time. They can also be ongoing components of a work culture, and may continue amongst the in-group. It appears here that pranks are used to make a very stable, predictable environment slightly more unstable. It reduces the formality of the workplace, blurring the divide between employer and employee, and between professional and casual relationships and conduct.