Tag Archives: jokes

The Talking Mule

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


The subject is a student at USC who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. I wanted to know if there were any local tales or folklore she knew of while growing up, so I interviewed her for the project.



Subject: There was this joke my grandpa used to tell us a lot when we were growing up, and I don’t think it’s actually that funny.

Interviewer: Share it with us.

Subject: I’m gonna butcher it, but it wasn’t funny in the first place —

Interviewer: So it won’t matter if you butch it then.

Subject: Okay it was called “The Talking Mule” and, ugh I’m gonna mess it up, but there was this farmer and he had a wife and kid. And he told the kid to go get something from the mule, but when he went over to the mule it said “I don’t wanna work today.” And the kid freaked out and he ran to his dad and told him that the mule talked. The farmer got mad at his son and sent him inside then went to the mule, which said, “I don’t wanna work today.” And then the farmer freaked out and said “I’ve never heard a mule speak” and the dog replied “Me neither.” And the farmer freaked out even more, he ran into the house and told his wife, “The mule and the dog talk!” And the wife said “You’re a liar.” And then the farmer freaks out and says, “You talk too?!”

Interviewer: That’s a pretty good one.

Subject: Yeah, it’s a little sexist at the end but then again it was my grandpa so.



I looked this joke up and I had to weave through lots of “Francis the Talking Mule” articles, which is a movie series about, you guessed it, a talking mule. But I eventually found that this joke is apparently apart of a string of South Carolinian tall tales. The version I found online doesn’t end with a joke about the wife speaking, but rather ends with the cat speaking. It’s not too much of a surprise like the one the Subject told, but the online version isn’t so derogatory, so. I looked up if agriculture was an important part of the South Carolinian economy, but it turns out their emphasis is in aerospace and technology.

“You Know You’re A Raver If” Jokes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: n/a
Occupation: Professor at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He described his most active era to be from 1997-2001 in the underground trance music scene of the Bay Area. He attended many outdoor, open-air, camping events that are described as “underground” or not necessarily sanctioned in the same way that official music festivals, such as Coachella, or Outside Lands are.

Context: Professor Nye was describing jokes and stereotypes of ravers that existed when he was involved in the underground trance scene in the Bay area. He was laughing throughout the joke-telling still clearly very amused by the jokes. Professor Nye seemed to expect that I would understand the jokes as a student in his Electronic Music and Dance Culture course based on our learning about rave culture.

“I remember just jokes around… actually this is hilarious I remember a list going around of “You Know You’re A Raver if” blah blah blah. Have you ever heard these before? At that time one of my favorite ones was, that I kind of came up with with friends was “You Know You’re A Raver if your email is happysparklyglowbear15@plur.org Another one is, you know you’re a raver if you’re doing the laundry and you start arguing about whether the washing machine has a style of tribal or trance. The strongest example was you know you’re a raver if you pay $30 for a party that may not happen, pay $20 for a pill that may be aspirin, but you will not pay $2 for a bottle of water.”

Oreo Practical Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 23
Occupation: Real Estate developer
Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/8/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

As a practical joke on friends and family Grant as a child would lick the inside of an Oreo out and refill it with white-colored toothpaste. He would then put them back inside the Oreo container and offer them to people.


Background: Grant is a twenty-two year old raised in Los Angeles, CA with one younger sister.

Context: Grant told me this joke over lunch talking about funny things we would do as kids.

Analysis: In my opinion, practical jokes are so heavily connected to youth and a lighthearted motive that usually they are just funny and not something to ever get upset over. Especially with the practical joke Grant would play, it is ridiculous to be genuinely mad; more so than getting angry, you just want to get them back with another practical joke. Practical jokes have always been something I find intriguing because I could never think of one off the top of my head or ever have the courage to play a practical joke on another person. I think practical jokes are a compelling element of folklore because the willingness to play a practical joke and which practical joke you choose is a revealing element of someone’s character

The Lock

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 56
Occupation: Electrician
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/19/2018
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

Main Piece: The Lock

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk riddle that is passed within his community or his school. He is marked as AO. I am marked as DM.

AO: El dia de ahora les quiero hacer una adivinanza. Haber si la pueden adivinar. Es chiquito come un ratón y cuidad la casa como un león. Que es?

DM: I don’t know.

AO: El candado.  


AO: Today I am going to tell you a riddle. Let’s see if you guys can solve it. It is small like a mouse and guards the house like a lion. What is it?

DM: I don’t know.

AO: The lock.


The participant is 56 years old. He grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. Alberto, who is marked as AO, is my grandpa. When I was growing up, my grandpa loved to tell me and my sisters jokes or riddles. He would tell us it helped us develop a different way of thinking. He learned this riddle and I learned this riddle in Spanish, but it makes sense in English as well. Below is a conversation I had with AO for more background/context of the joke, which was originally in Spanish.

DM: Why do you know/ like this riddle?

AO: I like to tell this riddle because it became a motivation to read. All of my books in elementary contained jokes, which made it easier to read.

DM: Where and from who did you learn this riddle from?

AO: I learned this joke in Mexico from an elementary book.  

DM: What does this riddle mean/ signify to you?

AO: Telling jokes or phrases that make people think is a tradition in Mexico. This was a better way to unfold my learning abilities in an enjoyable manner.  

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

Every time I heard this joke I never thought about it as a way to pass time or a game. I think it is important to know that at one point riddles were a form of entertainment in some communities. The fact that elementary books in Mexico that are full of riddles are being read by students is amazing. The students have no idea that their readings contain so much tradition or folklore. The fact is that the riddles that are authored text can be continued to be passed down to other children.

A Colombian Paisa Finds A Genie

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Colombian
Age: 48
Occupation: Writer
Residence: San Antonio, TX
Date of Performance/Collection: 4 22 2017
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

This is a Paisa (Northern Colombian) joke I collected from a relative. Although the joke was performed as being distinctly paisa, it exists in multiple languages. In any case, it’s an excellent joke:

Below, the original Spanish followed by a complete English translation

Un paisa está haciendo un agujero en su jardín para plantar un árbol cuando desentierra una lámpara mágica.  La frota y le aparece un genio que le dice, ‘Te voy a conceder tres deseos, pero a tu vecino le voy a dar el doble de lo que tu me pidas.’  

‘Humm, mira, quiero una rubia que este buenísima y que pese 65 kilos; que le des a mi vecino cien millones de pesos, y que me des a mi un susto que me deje medio muerto….’


A paisa (Colombian countryman, cowboy) is making a hole in his garden to plant a tree when he finds a magical lamp in the ground. He rubs it and a genie appears, who says: ‘I am going to give you three wishes, with the exception that I’m going to give your neighbor double of what you ask me.”

‘Hmm, look, I want a 100 pound ruby that’s absolutely marvelous, that you give my neighbor a million pesos, and that you give me a scare that  scares me half to death’

Analysis: Any good paisa joke is based up in the mountains, or in the great outdoors where one works on the Finca, or Ranch. The joking hostility of the joke is quite interesting as the Paisa is known archetypically as a neighborly, kind Colombian. I love the joke and its play on words.

The Difference Between God and A Surgeon

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 18 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The informant is a junior at USC from Chicago, Illinois studying dentistry.

After a discussion of the meaning and purpose of folklore I asked him if he knew of any folk practices or sayings related to his profession. We arrived at this question because he comes from a family of dental practitioners. He has been shadowing various oral surgeons over the past year and described an incident that occurred over the past summer.

He was shadowing a successful oral surgeon in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He was observing his first intense oral surgery as it was occurring.

Mid surgery, the surgeon whom he was shadowing looked up and recited the following:

Do you know what the difference between God and a surgeon is?

(After a pause) God doesn’t think he’s a surgeon.

He couldn’t help but break into a fit of laughter as the surgeon returned to his procedure.


This is an interesting little joke that is variously ascribed to a variety of high skill professions such as lawyers and pilots as well. There’s an interesting duality here in that a high level of intelligence, skill, and grit is necessary to become a surgeon, and yet of course there are problems in thinking so highly of oneself. Thus, I sense a bit of ambivalence in the joke that is highly contextual. For example, if the surgeon performs a high-risk surgery correctly and says the joke, there’s a bit of pride in the sense of peril and gamble that the surgeon competed against. On the other hand, if the surgery were to fail and the joke be told (rare or strange, of course), the attention would then shift to the absurdity of such risk, of the sense of avoiding the unavoidable failure and the conceit latent in thinking so. Beyond this startling ambiguity, there’s also a sense of science superseding faith. The surgeon steps in and saves a life when there is no hope, thus affirming his or her self as a miracle of science is performed.

Audi Advertisement

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian
Age: 65
Date of Performance/Collection: March 15 2017
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Living in an Indian household, folk knowledge is often easily substituted for what is considered “western logic.” Often times exorbitant price tags are seen offensively in Indian society, as overcharging needlessly is a sign of greed and lack of integrity. This conversation happened between the informant, D, and his grandma, G when they were watching Indian soaps and an Audi advertisement popped up.

Advertisement: we have 12 airbags, safety controls, safety sensors, and safety parking assistance… [translated to English]

G: *laughs*

D: What’s so funny, G?

G: We have Durga Ma and Babaji on the dashboard, Hanuman Ji on the rearview mirror, Nimbu Mirch on bumper, and Maa di Lal Chunni around the rearview mirror… Don’t worry about our safety… tu price kam kar

The interviewer laughed after G’s final statement. The ease with which G was able to scoff at the safety mechanisms Audi incorporated in their vehicles truly shows the disconnect between Western and Eastern ideals of wealth and necessities. Audi believes that they are selling Indians on the message of increased safety to justify the higher expenses on their vehicles but just the opposite is true – Indians just need Durga Ma, Babaji, Hanuman Ji, etc (religious figurines) to feel safe. What they would rather see Audi do is worry about their exorbitant prices (“tu price kam kar” = work on your pricing).


--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece: Anti-Joke


My brother told me this joke:


Brother: “Ask me if I’m a tree.”


Me: “Are you a tree?”


Brother: “No.”




This is my brother’s go to joke and has been for a while, and he finds it funnier than the person who he tells it to. He was told this by a teammate in high school who is around the same age as him, and tells me it is called an “anti-joke.” This was a big thing for a while, when people would begin to tell a joke and the listener would expect a funny punchline, but there really is no comical aspect to the joke. Here is another example of a joke like this:

What is green and has wheels?

Grass, I lied about the wheels.


My brother loves this joke because it is generally not seen as funny, but the fact of how stupid it is and how the listener is trying to think of what the punchline is leaves them dumbfounded by how simple it is and how there really is no point to the joke. Some people may think of how stupid the teller is, but once the joke sets in the listener tends to find it pretty comical.




This joke doesn’t necessarily have a subject, but is more so something you tell people at a random time when they’re unhappy or need to get their mind off something, because you are so caught off guard by the joke not having a punchline and having no real point.

That being said, there really isn’t a specific time or place when this joke is told, but rather it comes up when least expected and tends to catch the listener off guard, and that is what can make it so funny.


My thoughts:


I personally find this joke pretty funny, but I have a pretty odd and very far out sense of humor. My brother first told me this one day when I got home from water polo practice after a rough day of classes and the coach ripping me for messing up, and I had a pretty downer mood at that point. He had picked me up that day and could tell I was in a bad mood, and the first thing he said to me was, “ask me if I’m a tree.”

I find the stupidity of anti-jokes to be the funniest part, and seeing the confused and puzzled look on the listeners face more satisfying than the joke itself. I have used this joke occasionally and it tends to put a smile on the listener’s face whenever I tell them.

The Coffin

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Syrian
Age: 52
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 11, 2017
Primary Language: Arabic
Other Language(s): English

A man asked Juha: “What do you think is better, to walk behind a coffin, or in front of a coffin during a funeral?”

Juha replied: “Be wherever you want, except inside that coffin.”

Background information: This is a popular joke heard throughout the Middle East, starring a recurring character, Juha.

Context: The informant told me this joke in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is quite humorous, a bit of dark humor. It deals with funerals, but makes a joke out of it, saying the worst place to be at during these events is inside a coffin (because that obviously means you’re dead!).

Pastuso Jokes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Colombian
Age: 76
Occupation: Retired Truck Driver
Residence: Claremont, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/2017
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): Basic English

The following are jokes about people from a region of Colombia that is far removed from the capital of Bogota. They are known as Pastuso Jokes. They are usually very long like most Colombian jokes which usually follow long storytelling format so I picked 3 of the shortest to give a fair representation. These were repeated by my grand uncle at an Easter dinner and different ones are told at every gathering.

The Pastuso having just arrived in Bogota wanted to go to the market and was told that he could wait for the bus or walk there, he was given directions that said “go to the other side of the street and make a left at the corner and then walk two kilometers and the market will be on the right side of the street.” He waited for a while and no bus arrived but he saw a man on his front lawn, he went over to the man spoke to him and crossed the street again. Then still uncertain, he asked someone who was now waiting at the bus stop and asked “where is the other side of the street?” The man said “it right over there (pointing to the man on the lawn)” and the Pastuso said “but I was just over there and they told me the same thing.” (Insert laugh here)

A Pastuso went to the Capitol (Bogota), he was told by a someone who was from the capitol to remember that money calls to money – meaning those who have money seem to attract others with money so that a peasant from Pasto would largely be ignored- so not expect too much. But the Pastuso, never having been to the capitol was super excited because he thought of a plan. He went to the bank and exchanged all of his small bills (100 pesos) for the largest bill he could get (20,000 pesos) and then he went outside of the bank to wait for the bank to close. After the bank was closed for the day he shoved the 20,000 peso bill under the door of the bank holding it by the corner, hoping the bill would call out to the other bills in the bank. But a gust of wind came and he lost grip of the bill and it was sucked into the bank. The Pastuso stood up scratching his head and said “I guess all those bill in the bank called out to my bill more loudly.” (Insert laugh here)

A Pastuso went to the store to buy a poncho, and asked the storeowner how do I put on the poncho” The store owner looked at the Pastuso and said “just open up the poncho and put your head through the hole, easy.” So the Pastuso went home and spread out the poncho on the floor and jumped head first into the hole. (Insert laugh here)

Analysis: The last one is my favorite because it is actually the most translatable and therefore the funniest. My grand uncle Arturo loves telling “Pastuso” Jokes They are the American equivalent to dumb blonde jokes or Polish Jokes. Pasto is a city in the southern most regions of Colombia near the boarder of Ecuador nestle in the Andean Mountain range, making the city very isolated. The people who live there are mostly peasants and uneducated blue color workers. Probably because of its isolation more than the average IQ score, they have been the targets of jokes that exemplify extreme acts of stupidity. The distance from the Capitol does make Pastusos appear to be more provincial especially when they come to the big city. These jokes seem funnier in Spanish, especially when drinking vast amounts of alcohol. A lot is lost in translation.