Informant RM has spent most of their lives in the small town of Fosters, Alabama. Fosters had a small population and just about everyone knew each other. Even before becoming an elderly member in their town, informant RM enjoyed getting a laugh out of others. I called RM on the phone to ask if they could recall any of the jokes they used to tell family members and friends. While this phone conversation did not well represent the natural context in which their jokes would normally be told, in remembering a couple of jokes they were still able to make themselves laugh.
“These two drunks went out – going home one night – one of ’em took a right and the other one took a left. This guy went walking down – went through a graveyard and fell in a grave *Karploonk noise*. It was raining that night, and the friend didn’t see him – he had fallen in earlier – when one went left and one went right – he fell in the grave! This guy said, “Help me I’m cold! Help me I’m cold!” And the friend looked down there and said, “of course you’re cold, you done kicked all the dirt off yourself!”
Just after finishing this joke RM laughed and quickly asked, “Do you get it?” almost checking to see if he had delivered the joke properly.
This joke is a kind of narrative that might twist listeners’ expectations which could have a comedic effect. Jokes can be useful in folklore studies because they can show what topics/narrative structures particular people find to be humorous and/or entertaining. In hearing RM recall and retell this particular joke, I am lead to believe that it gives insights into both their listener’s and their own life experiences. The “punchline” of this joke works when listeners can relate or understand the foolish things one might say when under the influence of alcohol. Had the detail of the two friends being drunk been omitted or censored then this joke would not have made any sense. Since this joke concerns alcohol and its effects, I think RM’s performance of this joke potentially speaks to the lived experiences of himself or others. Otherwise, the joke would not have been funny or remembered. Perhaps this joke might even convey a dated, light-spirited/playful view of drunkenness which has disallowed it to be told anymore now that drinking has become more of a serious concern.