The Significance of the Eggplant, Farmer, and Penguin Joke

If you have been paying close attention, there is a recurring joke throughout Orange Is the New Black. We never get the full joke, but we always get the punchline. In case you have forgotten, we hear this joke (rather, its punchline) three times:

Red tells the beautiful, young, and rich Ukranian woman the joke on their walk: “He’s not an eggplant, ma’am. He’s retarded” (102).

Cesar tells the joke while cooking drugs in Aleida Diaz’s kitchen: “And Paco’s like, he’s not an eggplant. He’s retarded!”

Nicky gives us a bit more of the joke: “So a penguin and a farmer walk into a bar … and so the penguin says: ‘Dude, he’s not an eggplant. He’s retarded.’” After, Sister Ingalls comments: “You lost me at the umbrellas.”

After extensive research and digging in, trying to find what the middle of the joke consists of, it finally dawned on me. The same joke, with a cultural twist, is told to suggest that these people, each of different cultures and backgrounds, share the same kind of humor. Despite the hate between the races, this particular joke highlights that humor is always at someone else’s expense, for we look to laugh at others to make ourselves feel better. In this case, all races put down the intellectually disabled. All races have individuals with intellectual disabilities, but they are the easiest targets because they cannot defend themselves.

It is likely that we will never hear the full joke; our desire to hear the full joke highlights a commonality between the prisoners of Litchfield and ourselves. We are all human.

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10 thoughts on “The Significance of the Eggplant, Farmer, and Penguin Joke

  1. Perhaps the eggplant joke is a way to subtly, sneakily tie different storylines together. So, this “joke” may not be a joke at all, but rather a clue of sorts to identify characters with interlocking stories. I suspect, or at least hope, that the eggplant joke is actually OITNB’s “Rollo Tomasi.” The reference may be lost on some readers, but Rollo Tomasi was a clue from the movie, LA Confidential. I’ll try to do this reference justice in an explanation without spoilers: In the film, it’s actually a fake name, so when a captor states the name to another character, the truth is revealed – that something is amiss within the situation.
    So, with that in mind, I see the eggplant joke not as a MacGuffin – an item of unimportance, at least to a central story – but as a way of tying characters together. At the very least, the joke places all the characters in the same world, beyond the confines of Litchfield, into the “real” world (rather, the fictionalized world of OITNB). This makes both the characters and their stories far more compelling.
    So, the joke gives the OITNB universe a voice and a place in time. Perhaps the origins are even rooted in some character’s back story. We’ll just have to keep watching to see… 😉

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  2. I feel silly asking this, but I really don’t understand this joke! Could someone explain it to me? Thanks.

    Hope that doesn’t make me like one of the shallow Russian mob wives!

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    • It’s somewhat unclear to us still, too. It seems to be making a mockery of intellectual disabilities and “stupidity” as being the same thing.

      If you refer to the full joke that someone included in a comment (the source and accuracy is yet to be confirmed), we’re still as baffled as you are.

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    • So a penguin and a farmer walk into a bar. They take a seat, have a couple of drinks. So a girl walks up to the penguin and says “hey, wanna hook up?” And rubs on his fin. Next thing you know, a guy walks up to the penguin and says “ hey what you doin with my lady” the farmer says, “ chill it’s just a lil missunderstanding” standing up to the guy. The farmer begins choking on his toothpick. The guy says, “hey Mary Poppins,” the penguin says “ Mary Poppins!?” The penguin gets his umbrella spins it around the guy’s nuts and bangs a bottle on the guy’s head. The farmer chokes until he spits the toothpick out onto a nearby eggplant. The farmer then eats the eggplant and trips on the fallen guy. The girl asks if he would turn into an eggplant, only because she was drunk. The bartender says “miss, he’s not an eggplant, he’s retarded!” The crowd laughs and continues their regular dine at the bar

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