I’ve been plunging the depths of YouTube for suitable data to use for my latest research on children’s folklore on the internet. I’m looking at how Yo Momma Jokes on the internet differ from typical ritual insults, such as the Dozens tradition researched by folklorists and linguists in the 1960s and 1970s. Contemporary ritual insults are more playful than competitive, and the focus is more often on the play framework created rather than the content of the insults. I’ll be presenting the results of this research at the American Folklore Society annual meeting in late October. I’m nearly done with the data collection portion and decided to post some of my favorite videos as a sneak preview of my presentation:
Joke Hits too Close to Home: This video is interesting because the two participants construct a play framework suitable for ritual insults, but one girl breaks the rules by using an insult that is true to life and hits too close to home. Of course, this entire interaction is fabricated. The play frame is still in effect, although the girls pretend it’s not.
SO IS YO MOMMA!: This video comments on the relative simplicity of some ritual insults. The boy here is able to take advantage of this simplicity by constructing a ritual insult as a response to every statement. This creates a situation in which the ritual is inappropriate in a certain context, breaking the play framework. Of course, once again this break is fabricated, and is reestablished by the other participant to humorous effect.
when brothers fight 3: This video is funny because the play framework constructed for verbal dueling is so obviously fabricated as the two participants are identical twins! They obviously have the same mother, so the purpose of the verbal duel is not victory, but rather the play itself.
These are just a sampling of the videos I’ve collected, and I’ve only scratched the surface of this joke cycle on YouTube. I’ve got many hours of analysis ahead of me!