Although Alan Dundes once predicted that folklore would cease its relevancy as society continued to progress into greater advancement, many classic elements of folklore, notably jokes continue to have a large role in enlivening our day-to-day lives. For our collection project, we sought to collect all manner of jokes from different subcultures, specifically those common to the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan, Germany, Dartmouth First-Year Trips, and Dartmouth Athletics.
We also found a great diversity in the variety of the jokes collected from these subcultures. Some jokes were traditional and orally transmitted. Others were digitally based and transmitted as memes or utilized gestures to accomplish their humor. In the end, we interviewed 28 different informants and collected 33 different jokes.
When analyzing these different jokes, a number of key insights come to light. We found commonality across our diverse sets of jokes in that the root of humor come via a subversion of expectations on the part of the joke teller. Simply stated, the jokes are funny because the listener (or person on whom the joke is played, in the case of practical jokes) has one expectation and the punchline or reveal of the joke goes in an entirely different, humorous direction.
In some cases, we discovered that the cultural context of the joke was highly important to the form of the jokes we collected. In the instance of the Marshall Islands, the aquatic surroundings of the islands played heavily into the oceanic themes represented in some of the jokes we collected. For Dartmouth First-Year Trips, the jokes we found were mostly pranks, which we thought to be in-line with the functionality of Trips as a whole as the pranks involve breaking down social expectations to bring groups closer together and to develop new friendships.
Another interesting element we explored with these jokes in group discussion was the knowledge or specific context one would have to have to find them funny. As we collected jokes from disparate cultures and sometimes had to translate them from different languages, we noticed that the humor might be lost when translated (as was the case for phonetic jokes from the Marshall Islands which come from a language with a great deal of onomatopoeia) or that the joke just wouldn’t be well understood or found to be funny when taken out of its original context (Dartmouth Trips Jokes and Dartmouth Athletics Jokes). Unfortunately, when presenting these jokes to the class, the lack of laughter really drove this point home for us.
- Hebrew (2 informants)
- Marshallese (5 informants)
- Kazakhstan (1 informant)
- German (5 informants)
- Dartmouth Trips (10 informants)
- Dartmouth Athletics (5 informants)
Jimmy McHugh (Group Leader)
- Jokes, Hebrew, Marshallese, Kazakhstan, German, Dartmouth Trips, Dartmouth Athletics