Dave Petitjean and A.J. Smith
Crowley, Acadia Parish, and Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish
RealVideo clip (7:14)
Recorded September 18, 1993, by Pat Mire and Maida Owens during a barbeque at the home of David and Lorraine Bertrand in Elton, Jefferson Davis Parish. The following exchange, featuring two expert Cajun humorists, presents a full-blown story session. Tale follows tale in quick succession, as one man picks up on a theme or a phrase from the other's joke, using one-liners and brief exclamations to help craft a chain of stories. This story swap contains at least eight jokes on several topics--cooking, domineering wives, and psychologists--as well as innumerable gags.
Dave Petitjean: All Cajuns love to cook. I know you do.
A.J. Smith: And I love to eat.
Dave Petitjean: Oh yeah. But they always say, you know, when you go somewhere [far away], they always say to make Cajun food, it got to be hot.
But how you tell when it's too hot? Well, when you get bald-headed, it'll be a lot easier . . . Because I can tell when I eat some food, and you know the little beads break out [pointing to his head] right there? It's just right.
A. J. Smith: Falvey [A. J.'s wife] cooks, I swear, she tries that Cajun cooking, but that woman don't have the commitment.
Dave Petitjean: What you mean . . . ?
A. J. Smith: Well, you heard they got blackened fish, blackened this--all I get is darkened. [All laugh.] She says, "I can't bring myself to burn it."
How's about that blackened toast? I get blackened toast now and again.
Dave Petitjean: Audrey asked me the other day. Because, I got the same problem. Audrey's a Cajun girl. Cleans the house spic and span. . . . She washes the bananas--everything. When we first got married, I got up one night, went to the kitchen, made me a sandwich; when I come back, she'd already made the bed. [Audience laughs].
One day, she said, "Dave, I want to go someplace I ain't never been in my life.
Oh, I said, "Good. Why you don't try the kitchen?" [Audience laughs.] The toast--the toast you talking about? . . . One day, she asked me, she says, "Dave, you think the toast is done?"
I said, "I won't be able to tell you until the smoke clears out the window."
I been eating blackened eggs for thirty years.
A. J. Smith: I'll tell you the truth. You don't want to let the wife hear you talk like that.
Dave Petitjean: Why not?
A. J. Smith: Well, I was fussing like that the other day. And out the back room--I didn't know she could hear me. I heard her in the back room, "Yeah, and if you want a hot meal, you can turn off the air conditioning, too!" [Audience laughs.]
Dave Petitjean: Now look. I know that. I know that. I'm kidding. I get so far in the doghouse sometime--for this kind of stuff . . . [that if] you come to my house, I don't know if I ought to shake your hand or lick it. [Audience laughs.] Oh, no. It gets bad.
A. J. Smith: When you get that far back in the doghouse, they got to feed you with a slingshot, man--[Audience laughs].
Dave Petitjean: I don't got to tell you. We get in little discussions.
A. J. Smith: Okay, that's what you all call them?
Dave Petitjean: No, most people call them fights--but we call that discussion.
A. J. Smith: Uh-huh?
Dave Petitjean: Now, wa-a-ait a minute. At my house, I rule the roost.
A. J. Smith: Uh-huh?
Dave Petitjean: Course, she rules the rooster. [Laughter.] That's true, by God.
Now, let me tell you. Course, watch the Cajun girls. I want to tell everybody, watch them, because one night, I come home, and I was messing up some way, and she said, "Dave, I want to you know something. You have been the light of my life." She say, "But if you don't straighten out, I'm going change the bulb." [Audience laughs.] . . . Now, before you all jump too fast. I'm the boss.
A. J. Smith: Come on, Dave.
Dave Petitjean: I wouldn't lie with you.
A. J. Smith: Well-l-l-l.
Dave Petitjean: No, wa-a-ait. I'm going to prove it. The other night, we was having one of the little discussions at my house. I had that woman on her knees.
A. J. Smith: On her knees! Come on.
Dave Petitjean: On her knees! . . . She was there. There she was, saying, "Come out from under that bed, you coward." [Audience laughs.] You don't have trouble like that.
A. J. Smith: No, and I'm going to tell you what. I got a special bed. That--
Dave Petitjean: Should I ask you what that is?
A. J. Smith: Yeah, you can ask me, because I'm going to tell you anyhow, Dave. [Audience laughs.] . . . There was this psychological problem I had.
Dave Petitjean: A what?
A. J. Smith: A psychological problem.
Dave Petitjean: All right.
A. J. Smith: That's one where your brain ain't working good, no.
Dave Petitjean: Okay. Well, I got that too.
A. J. Smith: Because it's on the blink. Always on the blink. Always on a skip or something. I don't know what it was, but I could not sleep. I was afraid someone was under the bed. All the time, I'd wake up in the middle of the night. I couldn't get my night's rest sleep. [Calls out] "Someone's under the bed!" And I was too scared to see.
Dave Petitjean: Gosh, that's bad.
A. J. Smith: I went to the psychiatrist. He want to charge me seventy-five dollars a visit, and he take about fifty visits to cure me with that.
Dave Petitjean: Shoom!
A. J. Smith: I said, "I got to think about it." Because, I tell you what. . . . I . . . couldn't sleep, couldn't sleep. I ran into him one day at the K-Mart's there, like that.
He said, "Man, I remember you was in my office." He said, "You had the trouble sleeping." He said, "Did you all think about taking the treatment?"
I said, "Hey, I'm cured."
He said, "You're cured?"
I said, "Hebert cured me."
He said, "Hebert--Hebert--Dr. Hebert?" he said, "Is he a psychiatrist?"
I said, "No, Hebert. He's a carpenter. He cut the legs off the bed." `Nobody's under the bed now, man.'" [Audience laughs.]
Dave Petitjean: Special bed!
A. J. Smith: Well, I can't hide under it. . . . You got a place you can go. I don't--I got to go to the doghouse.
Dave Petitjean: I got a Badon Hebert from Gueydon. I thought you [were talking about him]. . . . He's one of them--psychological doctors, you know? You go lay on the couch, you know--for thirty minutes. And he sits. He take your fifty dollars and you leave.
Well, Madame Boudreaux been going there for five years. Lay down, get her money, never did nothing. Huh? She walk in one day, she said, "Now Badon--" she knew him since she was a little kid, you know? "That's enough. I ain't paying you no more money. I been five years giving you fifty dollars every week. That's it--I want to know what's the matter with me."
Well, he said, "Okay." He said, "I'm going to tell you what's the matter with you: you're crazy!" [Laughs.]
Yeah! Ooh, but she back off like that. She said, "Mais, I never been so insulted in all my life." She said, "I ain't going to accept that." She said, "I want a second opinion."
He said, "All right." He say, "You ugly too." [Audience laughs.]
A. J. Smith: Yeah, yeah, I'll tell you what -- Dave talk about Badon there -- that sound like when . . . that woman . . . [had] to take [have] a bad operation. And she was telling her neighbor across the back fence, "Yeah, the doctor had told me, 'This is a pretty serious operation you got to take.'"
And the neighbor said, "Well, you didn't get a second opinion?"
And, she said, "Mais, no. I didn't think about that. I'm going to do that." Sure enough.
Then, next day, she was talking with the neighbor across the fence. [The neighbor] said, "Say," she said, "did you get that second opinion?"
She said, "Yeah, I sure did. I had my husband call the doctor. The doctor told him the same thing he told me." [All laugh.]
Notes from folklorist Carl Lindahl:
Dave Petitjean's and A. J. Smith's repartee is not merely an instance of story swapping but a case of collaborative storymaking, because each man serves as straight man, audience, and helper for the other, as together they create a chain of tales based first and foremost on the stereotypical rocky relationships of married couples. Both men contribute a number of jokes and lines on cooking and female domination of the household. Following Dave Petitjean's tale of the man who hides under his bed to escape his wife, A. J. Smith changes the topic by contributing his own bed story, about a man who is afraid not of his wife, but of the dark; this begins a string of jokes about doctors. Jokes based on blackened foods are popular among Cajuns. Since Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme first prepared blackened redfish in 1980, blackened foods have been associated with Cajun traditional cookery--even though the dish is not traditional and is unpopular with many Cajuns. Although Cajuns tend to like spicy food, many Cajuns believe that blackening destroys rather than enhances the taste of fish. See, for example, the story told by Cajun Marc Savoy about the first time he ate blackened catfish, at a restaurant in California. He took the fish back to his hotel room and washed off the spices so that he could enjoy the taste of the meat.
In his last joke, A. J. Smith refers to a woman who had to "take" [i.e., have] a serious operation. Here he is using typical Cajun folk speech, because French speakers would use the term prendre [to take] une operation -- and often translate the expression directly when speaking English.
For more information about this and related tales, refer to the book Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, published by University Press of Mississippi.