When I was first learning Hungarian, jokes were part of my daily information “diet.” The local paper ran a few in the lifestyle section every day beside its lone comic strip (Garfield). My host dad (“Apa”) listened every night while I read the jokes out loud, then worked through the punch lines with me. Sometimes they made me cringe. Sometimes they made me guffaw. It was always a ritual I enjoyed.
I’ve hesitated some in broaching this topic, because mainstream Hungarian humor is not what an American audience would typically find outside of a dingy comedy club. Hungarian jokes often poke fun at two major topics: money and sex. However non-PC, though, they do get used to great comic effect.
Apa recently sent me a new joke, since I was having trouble getting them through the online version of the paper. It’s great for a grown-up belly laugh. So, for your cultural edification and towards a happy Friday after this week’s more serious culture note, here it is in translation:
The Smith family had waited many years for a pregnancy, and with the “deadline” approaching, they made the difficult decision to find a surrogate father. On the big day, Mrs. Smith nervously awaited the candidate. Meanwhile, a door-to-door photographer knocked, hoping to find a bit of work. Mrs. Smith opened the door.
“Good morning, ma’am, I came…”
“Oh, I know why you came. I’ve been waiting for you!” Mrs. Smith said.
“Really?” said the surprised photographer. “Great. Children are my specialty, you know.”
“My husband and I counted on that. Come in and take a seat!”
Mrs. Smith quickly broached the subject:
“So, where do we begin?”
“Leave it all to me! I think a couple in the bathtub, one on the couch, and maybe a few on the bed. But the living room could be fun, too.”
“The bathtub? The living room? No wonder it hasn’t worked for my husband so far.”
“Well, ma’am, no one knows how to produce quality products in every field. But if we try a few positions, from different angles, I’m sure you will be satisfied with the results.”
“Goodness, that’s a lot,” Mrs. Smith said, catching her breath.
“Ma’am, in my line of work, one has to devote a lot of time to the job. I could do it in under five minutes too, but I’m sure you wouldn’t be fully satisifed.”
“Hmm, I guess so…” Mrs. Smith mumbled.
The photographer picked up his bag and pulled out a set of his most successful photos. He showed her the first.
“Just look, I did this one in central London on the roof of a bus!”
“Goodness!” exclaimed Mrs. Smith, covering her mouth with her hand.
“And these twins came out pretty good, though their mother made it rather difficult for me.”
“Yes. In the end, we had to go out to Hyde Park, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. You can imagine how difficult it was there surrounded by so many people. So many came by, they were shoving each other around four or five rows deep.”
“Four or five rows?” Mrs. Smith asked, eyes wide open.
“Yes,” the photographer answered. “Their mother was very upset. She shrieked constantly for three straight hours. You can imagine how difficult it was for me to concentrate. Then it started to get dark, and so in the end I had to rush to get a shot off. When the squirrels started to nibble at my equipment, I packed up and went home.”
“Say, did they really nibble on your… umm… equipment?” Mrs. Smith asked, leaning in a bit.
“Yes, really. Well, ma’am, if you’re ready, I’ll pull out my tripod.”
“Of course. I need it—my equipment is too big for me to hold up too long. Ma’am? Ma’am? Whoa, did she faint?”
Ha! What good jokes have you come across recently? How does the humor translate, in your opinion?