Official! World's funniest joke
Monday, October 7, 2002 Posted: 8:24 AM EDT (1224 GMT)
LONDON, England -- The world's funniest joke has been revealed after a year-long search by scientists.
In an experiment conducted in Britain, people around the world were invited to judge jokes on an Internet site as well as contribute their own.
The LaughLab research, carried out by psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, attracted more than 40,000 jokes and almost two million ratings.
And here it is...
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services.
He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"
Wiseman said the joke worked across many different countries and appealed to men and women and young and old alike.
"Many of the jokes submitted received higher ratings from certain groups of people, but this one had real universal appeal," he said.
As well as identifying the joke which appealed most to people around the world, the experiment revealed wide humour differences between nations.
People logging onto the LaughLab Web site were invited to rate jokes using a "Giggleometer" which had a five-point scale ranging from "not very funny" to "very funny".
One intriguing result was that Germans -- not renowned for their sense of humour -- found just about everything funny and did not express a strong preference for any type of joke. (Full story)
People from the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand most enjoyed jokes involving word plays.
Many European countries, such as France, Denmark and Belgium, displayed a penchant for off-beat surreal humour, while Americans and Canadians preferred jokes where there was a strong sense of superiority -- either because a character looks stupid or is made to look stupid by someone else.
Europeans also enjoyed jokes that involved making light of topics that make people feel anxious, such as death, illness and marriage.
Wiseman said: "These results are really interesting. It suggests that people from different parts of the world have fundamentally different senses of humour.
"Humour is vital to communication and the more we understand about how people's culture and background affect their sense of humour, the more we will be able to communicate effectively.
"Also, we find jokes funny for lots of different reasons. They sometimes make us feel superior to others, reduce the emotional impact of anxiety-provoking situations or surprise us because of some kind of incongruity.
"The hunters joke contained all three elements."
Bizarrely, computer analysis of the data also showed that jokes containing 103 words were thought to be especially funny. The winning "hunters" joke was 102 words long.
Many jokes submitted contained references to animals. Jokes mentioning ducks were considered particularly funny.