As soon as you analyse humour or laughter or humorous laughter it becomes laughable. A recent study by the University College of London or University College of Lucerne, or Universal Custodian of Laughter (difficult to say since the news report merely said ‘UCL’) has concluded the following. Adding canned laughter to the end of a punch line increases how funny we find a joke.
But that’s not all. It continues: “…but not as much as real laughter.” In other words, the natural stuff is better than the stuff that comes out of cans, like orange juice or baked beans. At least, I think that’s what it means – it’s always difficult to tell the funny from the unfunny when researchers dig into a subject.
And here are some jokes from the study:
• What state in the US has the smallest drinks? Mini-soda!
• What does a dinosaur use to pay the bills? Tyrannosaurus cheques!
• What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!
• What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Dug!
Frankly, that lot requires canned laughter, actors pretending to laugh as well as junior researchers paid to make laughter-like noises. Maybe they did use these and it was difficult to tell the canned stuff from the pretend stuff. So this is where good research money goes these days?
If I sent out those ‘jokes’ to friends, I would have no hope of receiving birthday greetings this year. I would be shunned at parties, and people who saw me approach would cross the road and point fingers at me from the other side. I’ll probably even pick up a nickname or two; perhaps ‘carrot’ or ‘dug’.
If I made these ‘jokes’ at home, my wife would rush to take my temperature while my son would ensure there was no one within listening distance. The aim of a joke, wrote George Orwell, is not to degrade a human being, but to remind him he is already degraded.
I am terrible at narrating jokes anyway. Sometimes I forget the punch line, at other times I remember only the punch line and the listener has to fill in the details. What folks like me need is a portable can out of which ready-made laughter is served.
Or I should carry with me one of those gizmos that says “Press green if you enjoyed the joke or red if you didn’t”. And everyone who presses red gets canned laughter which will make him laugh too.
Maybe if I walk around with a spade on my head, people I meet will make a joke. Most people find their own jokes hilarious, so I would have provoked laughter after all.
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