You don’t have to be Scandinavian to enjoy Ole and Lena jokes — but it helps.

A friend recently e-mailed me a bunch, and after a good laugh, I went to the Internet for more.

For those of you not blessed with Nordic ancestry, I should explain. The stock characters of these jokes are: Ole and Lena, husband and wife; Ole Jr., their son; Sven, Ole’s pal; and Lars, another of Ole’s friends.

The characters are rather naive, hard-headed immigrants living in the north — probably Minnesota — and the humor is the self-deprecating kind that allows both Norwegians and Swedes to laugh at themselves.

I first heard of Ole and Lena when I went back to Iowa for a funeral. This may seem like a strange place to be telling jokes, but actually it was a godsend. The family members were all sitting around later that day, feeling rather gloomy, with not much to say. One woman hesitantly began to talk about Ole and Lena, and before we knew it, we were all laughing so hard the tears were flowing — a wonderful tension release.

The jokes are usually told with a heavy Scandinavian accent, but accents are difficult to spell out, so in most cases I’ve omitted them.

Here’s a sampling:

• On a nasty, cold winter night Lena woke Ole and said, “The baby’s coming, Ole. You had better call the doctor.” The phone and electricity were out, so Ole saddled his horse and rode 10 miles to fetch him. The doctor came back, examined Lena, and said, “Yes, she’s in labor. Ole, make yourself useful and hold a lantern right here while I deliver the baby.” Ole held the lantern, and pretty soon the doctor said, “Here it comes. Ole, you’re the father of a baby boy. But wait, hold the lantern steady — It’s twins, Ole; you’re the father of twins. Oh, hold the lantern steady — Ole, I think it’s going to be triplets!” Ole answered, “Doctor, do you think it’s the light that’s attracting them?”

• Ole lay sprawled across three seats in a posh theater. The usher took note of this and whispered, “Pardon, sir, but you’re only allowed one seat.” Ole groaned, but didn’t budge. The usher said, “Sir, if you don’t get up from there, I’m going to have to call the manager.” Ole just groaned some more, so the usher trotted up the aisle and returned with the manager. Still, they couldn’t get Ole to move, so they called the cops. “All right buddy, what’s your name?” one cop demanded. “Ole,” he said. “Where’d you come from, Ole?” asked the cop. “The balcony,” Ole answered.

• Sven and Ole went to the lake, rented a boat and went fishing. They eventually found a great spot and quickly caught their limit. On the way back to the dock, Ole said, “That was good fishing. How will we ever find that place again?” Sven answered, “Don’t worry. While we were there, I put an X on the side of the boat.” “That won’t work,” said Ole. “How do we know we’ll get the same boat next time?”

• Ole and Lena were out walking and Lena clutched her heart and fell to the sidewalk. Ole got out his cell phone and called 9-1-1. The operator said, “Where are you?” Ole answered, “Lena is lying on the sidewalk on Eucalyptus Street.” The operator asked, “How do you spell that?” The phone seemed to go dead, and the operator kept shouting for Ole. She could hear him panting, and he finally came back on the line and said, “I dragged her over to Oak Street. That’s O-A-K.”

• Ole and Lars got a pilot to fly them to Canada to hunt moose. They bagged six, but as they started loading the plane for the return trip, the pilot said the plane could take only four moose. The two lads objected strongly: “Last year we shot six, and the pilot let us put them all on board and he had the same plane as yours.” Reluctantly, the pilot gave in, and all six were loaded. However, even on full power, the little plane couldn’t handle the load and went down a few minutes after takeoff. Climbing out of the plane, Lars asked, “Any idea where we are?” “Yaah,” said Ole, “I think we’re pretty close to where we crashed last year.”

• Ole and Sven were taking a vacation in Sven’s new camper. They became lost and were wandering around a strange town trying to find the highway. Sven was just starting down a grade to go under a bridge when he slammed on the brakes. Ole said, “What the heck you do that for, Sven?” Sven answered, “That sign there says ‘Low Bridge. No Vehicles Over 12 Feet High.’ This here camper is 13 feet.” Ole said, “Cripes, Sven, there ain’t no cops around. Just hit the gas pedal and go for it!”

• Ole has a son, Ole Jr., who came home from school one day and asked, “Papa, I have the biggest feet in the third grade. Is that because I’m Norwegian?” “No,” said Ole. “It’s because you’re 19.”

• Lars: “Have you heard dat dey elected a German to be pope?” Sven: “Vell it’s about time; dos Catholics have had it long enough.”

And here’s my favorite:

• Ole and Lena got married and were on their honeymoon trip. As their car neared Minneapolis, Ole shyly put his hand on Lena’s knee. Giggling, Lena said, “Oh, Ole, we’re married now. You can go a little further if you want to.” So Ole drove to Duluth.

Ferguson is a feature writer for the Herald-Banner, and a Scandinavian.

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