Scandihoovian! Scandinavian-American Folk Humor
Exhibit on view August 31–December 15, 2017
Scandinavian-American humor centers around shared cultural believes and communication styles. These jokes often follow the misadventures of an immigrant in the New World, poking fun at the immigrant’s experience in ways that are both relatable and cringe-worthy. Common themes emerge, such as ridiculing other Scandinavians (frequently Swedes vs. Norwegians), making fun of food choices (bland food, Jell-O, and “hot dishes”), language troubles, Lutheranism, employment, the weather, and family relationships.
Olle i Skratthult
Olle i Skratthult (Olle from Laughtersville) was the stage name of Hjalmar Peterson, singer and comedian from Sweden who was popular on the Scandinavian-language vaudeville circuit. Olle was best known for his song “Nikolina,” a comedic story of a couple whose courtship is foiled by the girl’s domineering father. Interest in Olle’s songs was revived during the Memories of Snoose Boulevard festival in Minneapolis from 1972-1977.
Ole and Lena
Ole and Lena jokes are by far the most popular and recognizable examples of Scandinavian-American humor. Ole and Lena are a couple who live in the Upper Midwest (typically Minnesota) and experience many well-meaning misunderstandings and language mistakes. It’s hard not to find them charming.
Stan Boreson, “King of Scandinavian Humor” was an American entertainer who performed Scandinavian dialect songs by transforming popular American songs into humorous Norwegian and Swedish renditions, accompanied by his accordion.
Scandihoovian is a term to refer, humorously, to immigrants and their descendants from Scandinavian countries.
A Norwegian was told that sea air would help his ailing wife. He went home and fanned her with a herring.
There was a Swede who complained: “Yust ven I finally learned ta say YELLY, day started calling it YAM.”
Henrietta: I caught my boyfriend flirting.
Karolina: I caught mine dat vay too.
Lars asked Ole, "Do ya know da difference between a Norvegian and a canoe?" "No, I don't," said Ole. "A canoe will sometimes tip," explained Lars.
Why did the Norwegian take along sandpaper when he crossed the desert? He thought it was a map.
Torsten: Did you know it takes five sheep ta make a vool sweater? Signe: Really? I didn’t even know day could knit.
Two Swedes were discussing married life. “I never knew vat real happiness vas until I gott married,” said the first one. “Ya, I know vat you mean,” said the other one, “but den it’s too late.”
A man wrote to the Minneapolis Journal, “If you print any more jokes about the stingy Swedes, I shall stop borrowing your paper.”
Leary, James P. “‘Ar Du Svensk?’ – ‘Norsk, Norsk!’ Folk Humor and Cultural difference in Scandinavian America.” Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends and Neighbors, edited by Phil Anderson and Dag Blanck. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012.
Anderson, John Louis. “Scandinavian humor & other myths.” Nordbook, 1986.
Matson, Theodore E. “Humor and happenings from Augustana days.” 1977.
Hildrum, Norman, and Sharon Hildrum. “The almost official Swedish book of humor.” Inky Fingers Press, 1986.
Leary, James P. “So ole says to Lena: folk humor of the upper Midwest.” University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.
Jones, David. “The lutefisk handbook: a humorous look at the world’s most misunderstood fish.” Inky Finders Press, 1983.
Thorud, Richard Arland. “The remarkable saga of Ole & Lena.” Elliot House, 1998.
Boreson, Stan. “That Scandinavian Hot-Shot” [sound recording]. Golden Crest Records, Inc., 1982.
Hasselgren, Ragnar. “Scandinavian American Comedy Songs” [sound recording]. Harmony Music, 19.
Springer, George T. “Yumpin’ Yimminy: Scandinavian Dialect Selections.” Hart Publications, 1932.
Anderson, Paul F. “Scandimania: Smorgasbord of Fun.” Eggs Press, 1985.
Anderson, Paul. “Grade Ä Fresh Scandinavian Yokes.” Eggs Press, 1979.
“Olle i Skratthult, Nya Visor och Historier.” Willmar, Minn., 1921.
“Bland Kolingar och Kogubbar.” A.L. Lofstom, 1908.
Strangland, E. C. “Ole & Lena Jokes Book 5.” Norse Press, 1990.
Stangland, E. C. “Ole & Lena Jokes Book 4.” Norse Press, 1989.
Books to browse
Stangland, E. C. “Ole & Lena Jokes.” Norse Press, 1986.
Stangland, E. C. “Ole & Lena Jokes Book 3.” Norse Press, 1988.
Stangland, E. C. “More Ole & Lena Jokes” Norse Press, 1987.
Stangland, E. C. “Ole & Lena Jokes Book 6.” Norse Press, 1992.
Stangland, E. C. “Ole & Lena Jokes Book 7.” Norse Press, 1993.
Lee, Art. “Real Scandinavians Never ask Directions.” Adventure Publications, 2000.
Anderson, Bertil E. “Crazy Swedes & Other Wonderful Loons.” Fairway Press, 1990.