Tag Archives: light bulb

Psychiatrist Light Bulb Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Canadian/American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: New York City
Date of Performance/Collection: 02/14/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece: 

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

The Inedible Pear Riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Ukranian
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Kyiv, Ukraine
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/18
Primary Language: Russian
Other Language(s): Ukranian

Main Piece:

Original:

Весит груша, нельзя скушать.

– Лампочка.

Phonetic:

Vesit grusha, nel’zya skushat’.
– Lampochka.

Translation:

A pear is hanging, but you cannot eat it.

– Light bulb.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to him by his childhood friends

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Ukraine

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an interesting riddle.

Context:

This is told by children to other children to play riddle games.

Personal Thoughts:

I have heard a different variant of this riddle, where the answer is “boxing punch bag” instead of a light bulb, since the word for “pear” and “punching bag” in Russian is the same (груша).