Knock, Knock, Who’s There? The World’s Funniest Joke!


Two researchers walked into a bar, and a third one ducked. Are you laughing? Well, we know that’s not the answer. Back in 2002, researchers at the University of Herfordshire wanted to find the “world’s funniest joke.”

To find the answer, Richard Wiseman a Professor of Psychology at the university started a program called LaughLab to ascertain the answer to that very complex research question. The question was designed to find the funniest joke across all cultures, regions, demographics and countries; not an easy task.

The year-long study was a collaboration between the University of Hertfordshire and The British Science Association. It involved “people sending in their favorite jokes, and rating how funny they found the jokes submitted by others,” according to LaughLab’s website.  “The project attracted attention from the international media, resulting in the website receiving over 40,000 jokes and 1.5 million ratings.”

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Of the 40,000 jokes submitted the winner was sent by Gurpal Gosall, a 31-year-old psychiatrist from Manchester, England.

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says: “OK, now what?”

baby laughing hysterically
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The study exposed ties across nations for humorous word play. The study also broke joke popularity down by country.

The United States’ data was skewed slightly when newspaper comic artist Dave Barry “urged readers to submit jokes that simply ended with the punch line: ‘There’s a weasel chomping on my privates.’” This caused the weasel jokes to be propelled above any other when they received over 1,500 weasel-chomping gags. This was the most popular:

At the parade, the Colonel noticed something unusual going on and asked the Major:
“Major Barry, what the devil’s wrong with Sergeant Jones’ platoon?
They seem to be all twitching and jumping about.”
“Well sir,” says Major Barry after a moment of observation. “There seems to be a weasel chomping on his privates.”

Aside from weasel jokes, the funniest in the United States was:

A man and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course. He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer. His friend says: “Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.” The man then replies: “Yeah, well we were married 35 years.”

According to the study, People from The Republic of Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand expressed a strong preference for jokes involving word plays.

Patient: “Doctor, I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bum.”
Doctor: “I’ve got some cream for that.”

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Whereas, Americans and Canadians preferred “gags where there was a sense of superiority — either because a person looked stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person.”

Texan: “Where are you from?”
Harvard grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with
Texan: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?”

Aside from the human-submitted jokes the researchers wanted to assess computer-generated humor. They inserted five of the computer-generated jokes and while four performed poorly one scored higher than one third of all the human jokes.

Q: “What kind of murderer has moral fiber?”
A: “A cereal killer.”

Chicken-laughlabLaughLab didn’t just wait for the results to roll in, they also mined the data discovering the perfect length for a joke — around 100 words — the best animal to use in place of a person — a duck, and that Germans appreciate a wide variety of humor — so if you’re going to tell a joke, find a German as they’re the most likely to laugh.

“Humor is vital to communication and the more we understand about how people’s culture and background affect their sense of humor, the more we will be able to communicate effectively, ” Wiseman said. “These results are really interesting — it suggests that people from different parts of the world have fundamentally different senses of humour.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a weasel chomping on my privates.

Full results of the study were published in Wiseman’s book, Quirkology or the full paper is available on Wiseman’s website.

Sources: LaughLab, New Scientist
Image: iStockPhoto

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