Yo mama’s teeth are so yellow… she could spit butter!
The modern day “Yo mama” joke, once no doubt unheard of in proper social circles seemed to spread overnight from the urban throng of American society, out towards the suburbs where it seeped into Western culture at large. By the time MTV’s 2006 television show of the same name began to air, for what would prove to be 18 episodes across two seasons, it was already a bit passé, at least among youth culture. However, to be fair, it is still a polarizing topic: for some, it proves to be an un-crossable line, whereas to others, it remains a fun and casual jab-type game of one-upmanship, wherein the players must work tirelessly at wordplay and exaggeration to the embarrassment of their foe.
It should be noted, however, that the act of the maternal insult is nothing new, with recent and strong evidence to suggest that the oldest “Yo mama” joke is approximately 3500 years old. As discussed in recent articles regarding archeologist J.J. Van Dijk’s 1976 discovery of ancient Babylonian tablets, it would seem their sense of humor is not much unlike our own. These tablets, which comprised of what they are referring to as “Dialogue and Riddles,” also contain roughly 4 jokes of a decisively pedestrian nature, ranging on subjects from beer, to farts, to you guessed it—Yo Mama! It should be noted for contextual reasons that these tablets were believed to be written by students, only further proving that little has changed from students today! Sadly, the nature of the latter joke itself shall not be repeated here due both to the specificity of the subject matter, and the fact that, by modern standards, it is decidedly unfunny.
First off though, in honor of Mothers Day, and for those of you already sharpening sword and pen alike in response to such a dreadful topic, lets talk about what it is and what it isn’t: It is not about your poor, sweet, actual, factual, mother who sits at home late at night concerned with your happiness and well-being! It is about an abstract concept of the mother as the one line in the sand that one does not cross without serious physical repercussions. You see, the same people who would tell a Yo mama joke, are generally the same who would actually put themselves in harms way to protect their own mother (and likely yours), and gladly.
However, when it comes to friendship, we often live on that line. We learn, with those whom we hold dear, to play a delicate game of razzing and antagonizing that one can only do with those they feel most comfortable with. I would argue that it, as a function of joke telling in general, actually helps us to function better in society as it provides an outlet for us to bounce off of those closest to us in a way that is not, in fact threatening at all, thereby bettering us for the rest of the world in the process. All it requires is a little sense of humor….and Yo mama!
At this point, the “Yo mama” joke is ubiquitous enough that you could spend all day long finding new and innovative takes on this classic, but in the pre-internet olden-days, we used to have to come up with them using our brains and such! Today, even a cursory search in the Itunes app store returns more hits than yours truly has time to delve into. Rest assured: they are aplenty. For my money though, it gets no better than The Pharcydes 1992 largely slept on song “Ya mama,” whose lyrics should be required reading for a Masters level course on this age-old game. With that, I leave you with these last words:
Yo mama is so stupid she spent twenty minutes lookin’ at an orange juice box because it said “concentrate”.