The University of Wisconsin Press

Humor / American Midwest / Folklore


So Ole Says to Lena
Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest
Second Edition

Compiled and edited by James P. Leary
with an introduction by W. K. McNeil

A funny book, but no mere joke book.”
The Country Today

In the land of beer, cheese, and muskies—where the polka is danced and winter is unending and where Lutherans and Catholics predominate—everybody is ethnic, the politics are clean, and the humor is plentiful. This collection includes jokes, humorous anecdotes, and tall tales from ethnic groups (Woodland Indians, French, Cornish, Germans, Irish, Scandinavians, Finns, and Poles) and working folk (loggers, miners, farmers, townsfolk, hunters, and fishers). Dig into the rich cultural context supplied by the notes and photographs, or just laugh at the hundreds of jokes gathered at small-town cafes, farm tables, job sites, and church suppers. This second edition includes an afterword and indexes of motifs and tale types.

A treasure trove of ‘occupational humor’ that’s often slightly racy and usually shot through with a blunt appreciation of the peculiar ways of the Midwestern world.”
—Tom Laskin, Isthmus

An accomplished blend of firsthand familiarity with the region and broad academic knowledge of the discipline of folklore.”
—Robert T. Teske, Minnesota History

Leary conveys a palpable sense of the original joke telling experience.”
—Clyde Wade, Humor: International Journal of Humor Research

James P. Leary is director of the Folklore Program and professor in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His books include Wisconsin Folklore, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press, Minnesota Polka, Yodeling in Dairyland, and, with Richard March, Down Home Dairyland.

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cover image of "So Ole Says to Lena" by James P. Leary, features a grandmotherly woman in an ethnic costume, people laughing at jokes, and a background of a northern lake.

September 2001

272 pp.   6 x 9
29 b/w photographs

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