A new book about humor describes a scientific experiment searching for the joke that is truly the funniest. One million people rated jokes. CNET blogger Chris Matyszczyk wonders if the winner will make you laugh.
by Chris Matyszczyk
What makes you laugh?
Science is poking its nose into every part of human life.
While some laugh at the very notion of us all soon becoming robots, the Googlies and their ilk continue toward their serious goal of coding humanity.
Sadly, there has to be a collision. Thankfully, science has taken it upon itself to discover which joke is truly the funniest in the world.
As the Huffington Post reports, British researcher Richard Wiseman worked hard to understand the core of humor. His story is told in a new book by Scott Weems called "Ha!: The Science Of When We Laugh And Why."
Wiseman reached some fascinating and very scientific conclusions. The funniest animal is, allegedly, a duck. The Brits apparently prefer their humor dry, while the Americans are allegedly fond of aggression in their humor. Oh, that's funny.
But the most important part of this work was surely the search for the funniest joke in the world. Wiseman asked 1 million people to offer their ratings.
I am conscious of the dangers involved in asking 1 million people about anything. We have often seen the difficult results inherent in any democracy or popularity contest.
Here, though, I present the winner:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He's not breathing and his eyes are glazed, so his friend calls 911. "My friend is dead! What should I do?" The operator replies, "Calm down, sir. I can help. First make sure that he's dead." There's a silence, then a loud bang. Back on the phone, the guy says, "OK, now what?"
(pauses for reaction)
So, your keyboard or screen has now either been covered by a cocktail of coffee and spittle. Or you are sitting there considering the meaning of life and the worth of your fellow man. I will only offer one small observation about humor. Context means so much. There are times of the day, moments of an evening, when certain forms of humor seem to work.
There are other occasions when the very same joke, even told to the very same people, descends like a stricken owl.
Often, there's no controlling these moments. I was once at a dinner with 20 female professional golfers. They began to tell jokes. Each was a touch more filthy than the last.
When it came to my turn, I had no idea what to do. My pinot noir had every idea. So I told a joke that, I confess, plumbed one or two depths.
When I got to the punchline, there was a pause. Several nanoseconds of fear. Then, laughter.
I was lucky. They were drunk.
I think Wiseman's 1 million would have hated it.