Tag Archives: jokes

The Joke: Boston Crow Story

Informant: have you heard of Boston Crows?” ‘No?’ Okay so, in Boston New York, there has been a recent discovery of these special crows that are smarter than your average crow. They have these white speckles, making them very distinct. They’ve been recorded learning how to talk, do routines, and a lot of other things. People started considering them the local pets, almost, but people then started to find a lot of the same crows dead. The outcry got researchers to look into this, led by avian expert Dr. Roseburg. Rosenburg theorized there were many possible factors: different life spans, specific diseases, or predators. So the team observed the crows, trying to find the cause. They found a very interesting behavioral pattern. These crows mated for life early on and would spend a lot if not all their time with those partners while foraging. The most frequently visited places for these crows were the sides of not very busy roads, where people threw out trash of their windows while driving by. This is when scientists discovered something, a majority of these birds were dying due to being hit by vehicles. But these crows were not stupid, they had a very good system of communicating with one another. One bird would sift through the trash while the other sat on a nearby sign post or something and be look out. When a vehicle came along the look out would alert the one down in the gutter so it could fly out in time. But some birds still got hit, for you see, while it’s very easy for a crow to say ‘cahr’… it is very difficult for them to say ‘truck’.

Background: My informant states that they learned this joke from Reddit but they don’t remember the original name of the person who posted it. They first told the joke close to how it was originally written but quickly developed a game out of it where they’d try to spin the story for as long as they could. Their record was 30 minutes

Context: I asked my informant about the joke specifically because they took pride in making the story longer every time they told it. Over Discord I told them to make the story as long as they wanted, they sent me this version a day later.

Thoughts: This is a wonderful example of a shaggy dog story, and allows a lot of creativity on the half of the teller. As long as the punch line isn’t altered you can make it as local or as distant as you want. It was also a great joke to hear someone tell if you already know the punchline, for then you can simply watch the reactions of others who haven’t heard the joke before. I believe I found the original post my informant was referring to on reddit, please see:
docpepson. ‘The Crow Mystery‘. r/Jokes. Jan 25, 2008. www.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/1l888r/the_crow_mystery/. Accessed March 22, 2020.

Psychiatrist Light Bulb Joke


Informant: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Collector: I don’t know, how many?

Informant: One, but the light has to want to change. 

Context: The informant was sitting next to me while I was doing homework in his living room. He turned over to me and posed the joke. The collection occurred in the piece’s natural performance setting.

Background: The informant is Canadian born, but has lived the majority of his life in the United States. He is the son of a psychologist and has frequently interacted with psychiatrists. To the informant, the joke is incredibly humorous based on the common principle in therapy and mental health treatment that a patient has to want to change for the treatment to be effective. He is unsure of where he learned the joke, but guessed that he may have heard it in a television show. 

Analysis: The joke is a variation on “How many ___ does it take to change a lightbulb?” jokes that often build upon existing stereotypes. This particular joke  relies on the common principle of mental health treatment that a patient has to want to change for the treatment to be effective. It also plays on two interpretations of the word change. On one hand, it relies on change as literal replacement as in the case of the lightbulb. On the other, it relies on change being understood as a mental transformation. Ultimately, the joke plays upon an understanding of Western psychiatry and the idea that a psychiatrist would approach everyday tasks the same way as he/she/they would approach his/her/their work. 

For another version of this joke, see:

Wikipedia. 2001. “Light-Bulb Joke.” Last Modified May 3, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lightbulb_joke&dir=prev&action=history

Ole and Lena Joke – Thermos

Informant: There’s a sentiment, and I’m not sure what the origin is, but there’s a sentiment that Scandinavians, particularly Swedes or Norwegians, can kinda be… slow. That they can do something that’s silly or doesn’t’ make sense. So there has become a whole, uh… cottage industry, of Scandinavian jokes, that star a whole host of characters. The main character is a guy named Ole, who’s married to a woman named Lena, and Ole has friends like Sven and Lars and others with the typical Scandinavian type names. There’s books upon books of Ole and Lena jokes, and Ole and Sven jokes, and they’re pretty funny, but they make light of being Scandinavian. 

As an example, I have one here. 

So another thing that happens when you’re Scandinavian is you ice fish. The ice freezes over but the fish are still underneath, so you cut a hole in the ice and you plop your line in through the hole, and can catch fish that way. So here’s a joke:

“Ole and Lars go ice fishin’. Ole pulls out his new thermos, and Lars says to him,” (imitates a Norwegian accent) “‘Ole, whatchya got dere?’ Ole says, ‘Well, Lars, dis here’s a thermos. It keeps hot tings hot, and it keeps cold tings cold.’ After a while, Lars gets curious, and says, ‘Vell, den, Ole, whatchya got in dat dere thermos?’ and Ole says, ‘Well, Lars, I got a popsicle, and two cups of coffee.’”

Soooo, he’s not quite getting the sentiment of what a thermos is meant to do.

The informant is the interviewer’s mother, who grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. The informant’s family adhered to many Scandinavian and German traditions, some of which have been in our family for generations. Ole and Lena jokes have remained a staple in my family as well, on both sides of my family. I’ve had the same experiences as my informant did – even though the jokes portrayed Scandinavians in an unflattering light, everyone I’ve met who’s heard the jokes think they’re funny, not offensive (myself included). In fact, the people that I’ve met who are hesitant to laugh or think it’s offensive don’t come from Scandinavian heritage at all. I think they’re afraid to laugh, because they don’t want to be offensive in case it is offensive to people of Scandinavian descent.

Ole and Lena Joke – Doctors Office

Informant: Here’s a typical Ole and Lena joke. 

“Ole wasn’t feeling well, so he went to the doctor. After examining him, the doctor took his wife Lena aside, and said ‘Your husband has a very sensitive heart. I’m afraid he’s not gonna make it if you don’t treat him like a king, which means you are at his beck and call every day, 24 hours a day, and he won’t have to do anything for himself.’ On the way home, Ole asks, with a note of concern, ‘Vell? Vat did da doctor say?’ ‘Vell,’ Lena said. ‘It looks like you’re not gonna make it.’”

There are probably thousands, but at least hundreds that I heard from my dad and aunts and uncles. They had books, and every family gathering, it would dissolve into a session of Ole and Lena and Sven and Lars over time. And of course, the jokes are hysterical, because they were silly, and everyone would do the voices, and it was a very traditional thing that they had a lot of affection for. They weren’t offended by the fact that these jokes implied they were stupid. They thought they were funny.

The informant is the interviewer’s mother, who grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. The informant’s family adhered to many Scandinavian and German traditions, some of which have been in our family for generations. Ole and Lena jokes have remained a staple in my family as well, on both sides of my family. I’ve always found Ole and Lena jokes funny, although I know many people who don’t come from Scandinavian backgrounds who are afraid to laugh at them, because they don’t want to offend anyone. However, I’m not offended by the jokes, even though they paint Scandinavians as slow or stupid, and none of my extended family members are either.

E-Y-E-S Riddle

O: What does Y-E-S spell?

A: Yes

O: What does E-Y-E-S spell?

A: Eyes

O: Dammit, you were supposed to say “E-Yes”!
According to the informant, this is one of those riddles that is meant to give the performer a good laugh. From my understanding, the setup is designed to detect the fool. “Eyes” is a seemingly easy word but the moment it’s spelled out for you in the riddle, logic usually goes out of the window. This can make a fool out of even the smartest of us because it’s not really about intellect, it’s about listening.

A Polish Wedding Joke

Main Piece

QJ: “Can it be a dirty joke?”

Collector: “Yes.”

QJ: “A lot of the jokes I grew up with are kind of dirty…most Polish ones are…I think one that my grandfather would say asks what is long and hard that a Polish bride gets on her wedding night?”

Collector: “What?”

QJ: “A new last name.”


This joke seems to be fairly popular among Polish people, and I have heard it beyond my informant. In fact, I have heard it outside of the realm of Polish culture, and have seen different ethnic backgrounds attached to it. It seems that many prideful Slavic people make light of their often long and hard to pronounce last names through jokes like these. Given my informant’s background for the joke and explaining that he heard ones like these growing up, I would also assume that his culture and family have more of an openness to tell dirty jokes in front of younger audience. Generally, it would seem that older people have more of a relaxed ability to tell jokes that otherwise would not seem appropriate. This joke also implies a patriarchal society, where a woman would receive something from her husband in any interpretation of the joke, but no jokes suggest the woman giving the man anything.


Bill Clinton and the Pope Joke

Context: The informant was in the midst of telling his favorite jokes at a party

Piece: “Okay… so… by chance Bill Clinton and the Pope die on the same day, and due to some clerical screw up, Bill Clinton is sent to Heaven and the Pope is sent to Hell. And the Pope’s like nah this ain’t right. So he goes to the… uh… the administration folk and goes and says look I’m the Pope I shouldn’t be here and they’re like oh… we must’ve made a mistake we’ll get that fixed, it’ll take us a day— we’ll get it fixed. So, the next day.. uh the old Pope is walking up the uh pearly white steps and Bill Clinton is walking down and uh they stop, they shake hands, they say hello and uh Clinton says, ‘So, uh father what are you looking forward to most in heaven?’ and the Pope says, ‘Uh, I don’t know, I guess one thing I’ve always wanted to do is meet the Virgin Mary.’ Clinton says, ‘Ah, missed her by a day.”

Background: The informant, a 20 year old student at Harvard, found this joke on Reddit and believes this is one of his best jokes. He enjoys telling jokes to his friends and family.

Analysis:This joke is compelling and intriguing because it combines two radically different public figures in an absurd scenario. The joke plays on Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, insinuating that he has sex with everyone and would even have sex with the Virgin Mary. This piece reflects how American culture views Bill Clinton as untrustworthy and has sex with all women. By putting religion, and such a holy figure in Christianity as the Virgin Mary, this joke further pokes at how Bill Clinton lacks boundaries and respect. The audience recognizes that Clinton has conducted this behavior before and it is ironic that he would do it again, especially in Heaven, where non-sinners (unlike Clinton) would go.

Horse Walks Into A Bar “Dad” Joke

A: A horse walks into a bar and the bartender, and the bartender says: why the long face?

(group laughs and groans)



Location of joke: N/A

Location of Performance – Classroom, Los Angeles, CA, late morning


Context: This performance was done in a group of 3-4 people after a class in response to a question about potential high school traditions, festivals, jokes, or riddles. A was the last to perform his folklore and was particularly inspired after another student performed what was termed as a “dad joke.”


Analysis: Prior to A’s performance, another “dad” joke, as the group defined it, was presented. I had my own understanding of Dad jokes prior as just being truly ridiculous in the fact that the punchline was so on the nose…hence the groan. Therefore, my understanding of the effect of “dad” jokes was confirmed through these auditory cues and conversation. It is also interesting to note that dad jokes have no association with father’s at all; possibly this implies that you do not have to be a father in order to be embarrassing – a bad joke will do.

How to stop a dog from pooping

Main Piece:

“Do you remember what your dad used to tell us when we were little, about how to stop dogs from pooping? (laughter) So, he said that when you saw a dog pooping you should stare at it and interlock your index fingers and pull on them while staring at the dog. I did it many times, and it worked! Or maybe the dog was just creeped out by me staring at it.”



The informant is a 27-year-old Mexican American college student. He heard this “trick” from his uncle. He is not sure why he was told this but continues to try out the “trick” to this day.



I believe that this gesture was a way to entertain us when we were children. It might just be a prank to pull on naïve individuals.

Call a Wambulance

Main Piece:

“You better call a Wambulance”

Translation: Don’t complain about pain unless you want to go to the hospital

Background: The informant is a senior here at USC. He is my next door neighbor and we conducted this interview in person at his apartment. He is from Manhattan Beach and has lived there for his entire life.

Context: I asked the informant if he knew of any “Dadisms”. Dadisms are usually puns, combining word play with a common saying to covey a new meaning. The informant learned of the saying through his own father saying it and has said this to me multiple times in casual conversation. The informant stated that he likes to use the phrase as it reminds him of his father. The informant said his father will make this joke in response to someone (usually within the family) complaining about getting a minor physical injury, such as stubbing one’s toe. The joke is meant to mean that the person injured should fight through the pain and not let it bother, per the informant.

Analysis: It seems Dads have their own folklore, as does every other social community. I found this piece intriguing because this is actually stated by my own father as well. My Dad will use the exact phrase in the same situation as the informant’s. I asked my father where he learned this phrase and he said he learned it from his own father. Clearly, these “isms” are trans-generational. Like the informant, I also use this joke in passing. And, like the informant, I also learned of and associate this saying with my father. For the more recent generation, I believe this phrase is repeatedly used as a way to continually tie us to our fathers. For the the older generation, I believe the continued use of this joke serves to solidify their own identity as fathers.