No Kidding


Search on for World's Funniest Joke

What is an ig?
A: An Eskimo's home with no toilet


Glasgow, Scotland - A scientist has set himself the task of finding the world's funniest joke to see if universal humour exists, and whether it can further understanding of the brain.

The jokes, to be submitted in English to the Laughter Lab Web site, will help find whether humour varies for people of different age, sex and nationality.  A voting system will whittle down the entries to one winner, which will then be told to volunteers undergoing a brain scan to see how the brain reacts.

The result should help studies into brain damage and thought processes since understanding a joke requires a number of complex cognitive processes.  For example, people with damage to the frontal right hemispheres of their brains do not find jokes funny, and laugh at inappropriate times.

Submitted entries will be up against jokes generated by a computer.

Computer generated jokes:

Q: What kind of pig can you ignore at a party?
A: Wild bore

Q: What kind of contest can you drive on?
A: Duel carriageway

Dr Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire near London, told a the British Association science festival in Glasgow that the project would last a year.  "It is an attempt to delve into the psychology of humour," he said.  "A lot of cognitive input goes into understanding a joke and finding it funny.  For that reason, psychologists have studied humour for a very long time.  Are there certain types of jokes being submitted by a certain country and are there some which are found funny across the world - a kind of universal joke?"

Wiseman is expecting 1,000 entries to flood in within the first 24 hours of the site,, going up.  Smutty and offensive jokes will be weeded out, and people submitting jokes will also have to answer a few questions including responding to a 'laughometer' which will give their verdict on a sample of other jokes.

Source: 7 September 2001

World's Funniest Joke Revealed after Internet Vote

London - The world's funniest joke, voted by popular demand over the Internet, was unveiled on Wednesday by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) after an experiment lasting 3 months.

Famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his gruff assistant Doctor Watson pitch their tent while on a camping expedition, but in the middle of the night Holmes nudges Watson awake and questions him.

HOLMES: Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce.

WATSON: I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it is quite likely there are some planets like earth, and if there are a few planets like earth out there there might also be life.

HOLMES: Watson, you idiot!  Somebody stole our tent.

The BA said the joke was the most popular among 10,000 submitted, being chosen as the best by 47% of the 100,000 people from more than 70 countries who took part.

The jokes can be seen, made and rated on

Source: Reuters Thursday 20 December 2001

Scientists Identify "Funniest Jokes"

The world's funniest joke has been unveiled by scientists at the end of the largest study of humour ever undertaken.

For the past year people around the world have been invited to judge jokes on an internet site and contribute quips of their own.  The LaughLab experiment - conducted by psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire - attracted more than 40,000 jokes and almost two million ratings.

The joke which received the highest global ratings was submitted by 31-year-old psychiatrist Gurpal Gosall, from Manchester.  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 whips 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 shot is heard.  Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

People logging onto the LaughLab website were invited to rate jokes using a "Giggleometer" which had a 5-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.  They did not express a strong preference for any type of joke.  People from the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand most enjoyed jokes involving word plays.

Top joke in Scotland: I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather.  Not screaming in terror like his passengers.

Top joke in England: Two weasels are sitting on a bar stool.  One starts to insult the other one.  He screams, "I slept with your mother!"  The bar gets quiet as everyone listens to see what the other weasel will do.  The first again yells, "I SLEPT WITH YOUR MOTHER!"  The other says, "Go home dad you're drunk."

Top joke in USA: 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."

Top joke in Belgium: Why do ducks have webbed feet?  To stamp out fires.  Why do elephants have flat feet?  To stamp out burning ducks.

Source: Thursday 3 October 2002

Scientists Devise Perfect Joke Formula

The mathematical equation for the perfect joke has been revealed by scientists.  It is


This formula was worked out by Helen Pilcher and Timandra Harkness.  As well as being scientists, the pair are also stand-up comedians who make up the Comedy Research Project.  They run this in collaboration with the Science Museum's Dana Centre in London.  In the formula, c is the funniness of the joke; m is the "comic moment" which is arrived at by multiplying the punchline's funniness rating by the length of the joke's buildup.  nO is the number of times the subject undergoes a pratfall, multiplied by the "ouch factor" - the social and physical pain of the indignity involved.  The total is divided by the number of puns, p.

According to the equation, if a joke consists of a long "shaggy dog story", it doesn't require such a funny punchline as a shorter wisecrack.  Puns are seen as dissipating the power of a joke because they tend to encourage groans rather than laughter.

Source: Monday 14 June 2004

Joke Experts

by Joe Bob Briggs

I don't know exactly when it happened, but sometime in the last 10 years all the assistant professors of English in their tweed jackets with the elbow patches decided to stop writing about hummingbird imagery in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and start publishing books about the gay subtext of Mister Magoo.  Pop culture, low culture and downright sleazy culture that had never been called "culture" anytime in the history of culture suddenly became high academic culture.  There were sociology professors at Vanderbilt deconstructing Linda Lovelace, anthropologists at Wellesley excavating Victorian burlesque halls, and comparative literature geniuses at Stanford reinterpreting "How To Pick Up Girls" in the context of Kantian ethics.

Somewhere along the way something called the International Journal of Humour Research appeared, and in retrospect it was inevitable.  Edited by Lawrence E Mintz, an American Studies professor at the University of Maryland, with an editorial board from 22 other institutions including the University of Dusseldorf, the Russian State University of Liberal Arts, Tribhubvan University in Nepal, and Tel Aviv University, it maxes out at 440 pages a year of dense text devoted to "humour as an important and universal human faculty."

In other words, they take the joke, the jest, the pratfall, the standup routine, the vaudeville act, the pun, the bawdy limerick, and the jolly jowls of Saint Nicholas himself, and they subject them to relentless excruciatingly scientific microscopic scholarly jibber-jabber.  Of course, by doing so, they've already forgotten the first rule of comedy: If you can explain exactly why it's funny, then it's not.

Hence, in the particular issue that crossed my desk (volume 14 number 2), we have a couple of profs from the University of North Carolina/Charlotte writing on "Perceived Personality Associations with Differences in Sense of Humour: Stereotypes of Hypothetical Others with High or Low Senses of Humour."  (Translation: they asked a bunch of students whether they trusted and esteemed a person with a sense of humour more than a person who has none.  Guess who wins?)

We have five researchers at Georgia Southern University doing an experiment in which stressed-out people are asked to write a humourous essay to see whether that helps mellow them out.  (The answer: yes and no.)

We have Jennifer Gamble from the College of William and Mary studying gorillas and chimps and deciding that they have senses of humour similar to children.  (A single trip to the zoo would probably confirm this.)

But if you think this is an isolated cubbyhole of academic eccentricity, you haven't been on a campus lately.  In 1992 the University of Michigan had an entire "Comedy Semester," with courses offered in the departments of English, history, communication, art history, romance languages, music and film.  At the Central Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts, you can study the influence of humour on health.  Ohio University in Athens offers humour writing and performing.  At the University of Cincinnati, you can specialise in the humour of Jewish women.  (Oy vey!)

Leon Rappoport, a professor of psychology at Kansas State University, should get some sort of special citation for daring to teach a course in ethnic humour.  (Which reminds me of the one about the Polish plane that crashed into the large cemetery two years ago.  They're still removing bodies.)  But if you're truly serious about your lack of seriousness, you'll attend the University of Reading in England, where you can earn a Master of Arts in Humour.  (Would that be a MAH? And should it be pronounced with a horsey nasal honk-laugh?)

My favourite of them all is a course at Berkeley called "The History of Offensive Humour: From the Mudheads to Howard Stern," which has been taught by Mel Gordon, a professor of dramatic arts, since the mid-1990s.  (A "mudhead" is a kind of clown in Southwest American Indian culture.)  I assume Don Rickles has a prominent place in this course.  If not, this man Gordon is a fraud, I say, a FRAUD.  (The preceding line actually requires a Philadelphia Main Line accent from the 1920s in order to be funny, indicating that drollery can sometimes be diluted by the absence of live performance.  Ask any undergraduate who's read the words of Falstaff for the first time and said, "Falstaff BEER is funnier than this.")

Actually I think this is all a good sign for the future of education.  It wouldn't be a bad idea for every student, after struggling with questions like "What is justice?" in Plato, to also be required to ponder, "What is funny?" in the Ozark Hillbilly Joke Book.  It's a trick question.  There's no longer anything funny in the Ozark Hillbilly Joke Book, although toothless mountaineers were known to laugh at corncob jokes in the early part of the last century.  Surely there's a dissertation here: "Whither the Outhouse?  The Influence of Indoor Plumbing in and around Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on the Perception of Scatology."

The question of what is funny does have a philosophical dimension, though.  Andrew "Dice" Clay, to use just one example, was essentially banned from TV for being "not funny" when he was filling sports arenas with people who were laughing heartily at his jokes.  Whose funny was the right funny?  When a censor wants to alter a comedy script for television, the most oft-cited reason is "It's just not funny."  And the riposte, "Well, let's put it in the show and see if anybody laughs," is rarely accepted as a worthy experiment in social investigation.

There is something in every man's brain called "funny," and he trusts that particular lobe much more than the ones marked "love" or "faith."  Unfortunately, the ability to distinguish relative degrees of funniness is sorely underdeveloped in the classes of society that need it most - namely, legislators, businessmen and the clergy.  They all resort to something else entirely - the polite dinner-banquet joke - and as a result humour becomes devalued, laughter turns to a mere titter, and the number of daily guffaws necessary for a healthy nation suffers a long decline reinforced by the mass media.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, imagine if White House spokesman Ari Fleischer were to begin every news conference with, "Good morning.  A kangaroo walks into a bar with a weasel on his head and orders a pink beer...";  We would TRUST the guy more, right?  The last guy in office who could REALLY deliver a joke was Ronald Reagan.  People wonder why he was so popular.  Believe me, it was because you could imagine Ronnie belly-laughing at a particularly well-told elephant joke, even one of the dirty ones.  And a man who appreciates a dirty elephant joke registers in the brain as "not likely to destroy mankind."

We should require it on the resume.  "What?  No comedy classes on the transcript?  Sorry, you can't be trusted in a position of responsibility."  I'm all for it.  Really.  It's a good thing.  I'm not even being ironic.

Bob Briggs writes a number of columns and may be contacted at or through his website at or via snail mail: PO Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221

Source: UPI from the Life and Mind desk 24 January 2003 © 2001-2003 United Press International

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Today on in-joke theatre...
Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 18:16:15 -0500
From: Cody Hatch <>
To: Ruth Hatch <>


Which reminds me of the old joke about the three ministers at an ecumenical conference.  The Baptist minister walks down a flight of stairs to the conference room and trips over a wrinkle in the rug.  He tumbles down the stairs and lands in a heap at the bottom.  In pain and distress, he raises his hands heavenward and cries out, "Oh God, you are just even in discipline!  What sin have I committed that you have judged me thus?"

The Methodist minister tumbles down at the same place.  At the bottom he picks himself up, kneels with hands clasped and prays, "O Lord, tribulation hath befallen me, but with thy Spirit to guide me I shall persevere to glory!"

Then comes the Presbyterian, who falls like the others.  He stands, brushes his clothes off and says, "Well Lord, I'm glad that's checked off the list for today."

Goodnight, and thank you for watching in-joke theatre!

No, I don't get it at all, but I decided to forward it to you, because hey, its odd and inexplicable.  What better reason could there be to forward something?

Cody Hatch <>

Humour "Comes from Testosterone"

Men are naturally more comedic than women because of the male hormone testosterone, an expert claims.  Men make more gags than women and their jokes tend to be more aggressive, Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says.  The unicycling doctor observed how the genders reacted to his "amusing" hobby.  Women tended to make encouraging, praising comments, while men jeered.  The most aggressive were young men, he told the British Medical Journal.

Previous findings have suggested women and men differ in how they use and appreciate humour.  Women tend to tell fewer jokes than men and male comedians outnumber female ones.  Research suggests men are more likely to use humour aggressively by making others the butt of the joke.  And aggression - generally considered to be a more masculine trait - has been linked by some to testosterone exposure in the womb.

Professor Shuster believes humour develops from aggression caused by male hormones.  He documented the reaction of over 400 individuals to his unicycling antics through the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne.  Almost half of people responded verbally - more being men. Very few of the women made comic or snide remarks, while 75% of the men attempted comedy - mostly shouting out "Lost your wheel?", for example.  Often the men's comments were mocking and intended as a put-down.  Young men in cars were particularly aggressive - they lowered their windows and shouted abusively.  This type of behaviour decreased among older men however, who tended to offer more admiring comments, much like the women.

"The idea that unicycling is intrinsically funny does not explain the findings," said Professor Shuster.  The simplest explanation, he says, is the effect of male hormones such as testosterone.  "The difference between the men and women was absolutely remarkable and consistent," he said.  "At 11 - 13 years, the boys began to get really aggressive.  Into puberty, the aggression became more marked, then it changed into a form of joke.  The men were snide."  The initial aggressive intent seems to become channelled into a more subtle and sophisticated joke, so the aggression is hidden by wit, explained Professor Shuster.

Dr Nick Neave is a psychologist at the University of Northumbria who has been studying the physical, behavioural, and psychological effects of testosterone.  He suggested men might respond aggressively because they see the other unicycling man as a threat, attracting female attention away from themselves.  "This would be particularly challenging for young males entering the breeding market and thus it does not surprise me that their responses were the more threatening."

Source: 21 December 2007 © BBC MMVII

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