Penguins at the sushi bar

From Michael Thomas on Facebook yesterday, a link to a CNN travel story, “Pair of penguins waddles into New Zealand sushi spot” by Isabela Espadas Barros Leal on 7/19/19. Mike, knowing of my (separate) interests in sushi and in penguins, asked, “Does your local sushi joint have any of these?”

To which I replied, “Sadly, no. But pair of penguins waddles into New Zealand sushi spot sounds like the beginning of an exotic Walk Into Bar joke.”

Let’s take this one bit at a time, starting with the news story.

Penguins in the kitchen. Birds of persistence. The story begins:

When the police call saying there have been multiple break-ins at your business, it’s usually cause for concern.

The owners of the Sushi Bi restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand, however, were surprised to discover shelter-seeking blue penguins as their intruders.


Known by the name kororā, which comes from the Maori language, the birds populate many regions throughout New Zealand and Australia and are famous for their blue plumage.

After being temporarily detained in the early hours of the morning by Constable John Zhu, the penguins were returned to Wellington Harbour, only a few blocks away from Sushi Bi. Later that evening the birds returned to the restaurant, perhaps in an effort to continue nesting there. [Originally attracted by the fishy smell, no doubt.]

In a statement posted on their Facebook page, the Wellington District Police wrote: “We received a call about 8:40 p.m. on Saturday night of a penguin on the road in Featherston Street. Police responded and with some help from members of the public released the penguin, described as ‘little and blue’, back into the sea.”

The restaurant. The original Sushi Bi, the one in the story, is at 2 Woodward St., Lambton Quay, Wellington (right off the harbor, as the story says); there are now two other locations.

The place is small and unpretentious. Offering a range of simple sushi — complete menu illustrated below — made with fresh-daily ingredients, much of it “modern” sushi creations (nothing with avocado or cream cheese in it is traditional, for example). The logo:


The slogan:

I inquired about the name and its pronunciation — surely not bi as in bicycle and bisexual. The restaurant messaged back that bi (pronunced like bee) means ‘fire’ in Japanese, so (as above) all together sushibi means ‘sushi fire’.

The basic menu, in two pages and its entirety (you might want to embiggen the pages):



The penguins. From my 11/24/14 posting “fairy X”, on (among other things) Fairy penguins, aka Blue penguins:

[from Wikipedia:] In Australia, they are often called Fairy penguins. In New Zealand, they are more commonly known as Little Blue penguins or Blue penguins, owing to their slate-blue plumage. They are also known by their Māori name: kororā.

Fairy penguins, so called because they are small. There seems to be some movement away from the name because of contamination from the homophobic slur fairy. My own nomenclatural inclinations, of course, run exactly counter to this: come revel with the fairies!

The Walk Into Bar joke format. From my 3/4/18 posting “Two memic cartoons”, about this Zippy cartoon:


From my 8/13/17 posting “Reduced coordination, joke memes, and sociocultural categories”:

There are a number of conventional forms (formats, schemas) for jokes. The knock-knock joke. Joke verse forms: the limerick, the double dactyl, etc. And there are more open forms, allowing great latitude in their presentation.

The Walk Into Bar form is one of these. The only requirement is the set-up, which has one, two, or three characters (the bar-goers) going into a bar (mostly commonly the verb used is walk, in the jocular simple present tense, though go and other verbs of motion are possible, as is the simple past tense); sometimes the set-up specifies more about the bar-goers — what they look like, what they have with them — or about the bar and its location. The follow-up typically involves conversational exchanges between the bar-goers and the bartender or other patrons of the bar, or else a series of actions on the part of the bar-goers, these exchanges or actions incorporating a pay-off joke.

The four jokes in [#6 above] might be funny to Pinheads, but all of them have set-up lines from existing, fairly widespread Walk Into Bar jokes. [Examples follow.]

Though the canonical Walk Into Bar joke has the characters entering a bar, there are variants with other places for them to walk into. A few set-ups:

Two hillbillies walk into a restaurant…

Three vampires walk into a bar…

Three guys walk into a hotel…

A Mormon, a Muslim, and a Buddhist walk into a bar…

Three little ducks go into a bar…

To which we can now add the non-canonical, but entertaining headline variant:

Pair of penguins waddles into New Zealand sushi spot…

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