Study Guide

Bonnie and Clyde Cow Joke

Cow Joke

Worst. Joke. Ever.

Sorry, guys. We're going to have to repeat Buck Barrow's groan-inducing joke. Here we go:

BUCK: This boy, he owns a dairy farm, see? His old ma, she was kind of sick. And the doctor called him over and said, "Your mom's lying there. She's so sick and weakly. I want you to persuade her to take a little brandy. Just to keep her spirits up."

"Ma's a teetotaler," he says. "She wouldn't touch a drop."

"Well, I'll tell you what to do," the doc says. "You bring in a fresh quart of milk every day, and you put some brandy in it."

So he did, and he doctored it all up with brandy. And he gave it to his mama. And she drank a little bit of it. So the next day, he brought it in again. She drank a little more. The third day, a little more. The fourth day, she took a little more.

Finally, one week later he gave her the milk and she just drank it down. She swallowed the whole thing. Then she called him over and said "Son, whatever you do—don't sell that cow!"

Look: we know this joke is terrible. It's a cheeseball dad joke. But the thing is this: the first telling of this joke takes up one minute and fifteen second of this film. The second telling (so nice Buck has to tell it twice, right?) takes up an additional thirty seconds.

That's a total of one minute and forty-five seconds of screen time devoted to what is perhaps the worst joke known to man.

It might not sound like much, but here's a comparison: the entire final shoot-out, from the minute the birds come flying out of the trees to the last time we see the bullet-riddled bodies of Bonnie and Clyde, takes all of forty-five seconds.

Yep: we spend twice as much time hearing about how tasty a brandy-milk cocktail is as we do seeing Bonnie and Clyde die.

But why?

Good To The Last Drop

The joke has a dark undercurrent. It's about something poisonous being slipped into something wholesome and going undetected. The old woman doesn't want to drink alcohol—she's a teetotaler who doesn't believe in drinking. But by drinking fresh milk laced with brandy, she not only chokes it down, but she begins to love it.

We can see some serious parallels between the story of Bonnie and Clyde and the relationship of this woman to her milky brandy. The woman drinks a little more brandy every day, and she begins to crave it so much she can't think of doing without it—"don't sell that cow!"

Bonnie and Clyde experience a similar progression. They start out small—Clyde commits armed robbery, and Bonnie's an accomplice. They get in a little deeper—Clyde kills a man, and Bonnie aids in armed robbery. Finally, they're both wanted for multiple crimes that include the murder of police officers, Clyde's brother is dead, and they're both wounded.

But we see in one of the final scenes that Clyde, at least, has a "don't sell that cow!" mentality. Check out this convo:

BONNIE: What would you do if some miracle happened, and we could walk out of here tomorrow morning and start all over clean? […]

CLYDE: I guess I'd do it all different. First off, I wouldn't live in the same state that we pull our jobs. […]

Clyde's so used to the crime that informs his life that he's not able to think of a life without it. Like the woman in the joke, he can't make a distinction between wholesome milk (or an honest life) and poisonous brandy (or a life full of bank robbery).

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