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New humor test shows how far science has come

SHARE New humor test shows how far science has come

The scientific community, having run out of things to clone, is now trying to identify the World's Funniest Joke. I refer to a project called Laugh Lab, being conducted by Dr. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire (pronounced "Scotland").

Dr. Wiseman has set up an Internet site www.laughlab.co.uk/home.html that has received more than 10,000 jokes, which have been rated by more than 100,000 people, most of them wrong. I say this because the joke they have so far rated as the funniest is this:

"Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up. 'Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce.' Watson says, 'I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it's 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 replied: 'Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent!"'

Now, I'm not saying this is a bad joke. I'm just saying this is not even close to being the funniest joke in the world. It would be funnier if Holmes woke Watson up and said, "Watson, there's a weasel chomping on my privates!" I'm not sure where the joke would go from there, but you can't go wrong with a setup like that.

Of course, some would disagree. And when I say "some," I of course mean "women." Women generally dislike groinular humor; this is one of the startling findings — and when I say "startling" I mean "not startling" — of the Laugh Lab project. I have been listening to people — and when I say "people," I mean "men" — tell jokes for longer than 50 years (I don't mean the jokes take longer than 50 years to tell, although some of them come close) and I can state for a scientific fact that the funnier a joke is, the more likely a woman is to react by saying: "That's disgusting!" As if that's a BAD thing.

According to a Laugh Lab press release, women don't like jokes that involve aggression, sexuality or offensiveness — also known as "the three building blocks of humor." The release states that women prefer "jokes involving word plays." It gives the following example of a joke that women like, but men dislike:

"A man had a dog called Minton. One day Minton ate two shuttlecocks. When the owner found out he said bad Minton!!"

Whoo-HOO! "Bad Minton!!" Get it? Here, sniff these smelling salts.

I'll tell you who else has a serious humor deficiency: Canada. I say this because, according to Laugh Lab, the following joke was rated highest by Canadians: "What do you call a woman who can balance 4 pints of beer on her head? Beatrix."

Get it? "Beatrix!" Which sounds sort of, but not quite enough, like "Beer Tricks!" Ha ha! Maybe it would be funnier if they called her "Minton."

Laugh Lab also had people rate jokes that were generated by a computer. This is important research, because if computers can produce workable jokes, humanity may finally see the long-awaited day when humor columnists have to work even less than they do now. Unfortunately, the highest-rated joke that the computer produced was: "What kind of murderer has fiber? A cereal killer."

Granted, that's better than what Canada came up with. But it's not up to the standards of, say, Yemen.

Anyway, if you want to participate in the Laugh Lab project, you can go to the Internet site and rate some jokes. But I warn you: Don't have food in your mouth! Because the hilarity level of these jokes is sure to make you go: "Huh?" For example, here's one I was asked to rate: "Why do elephants have big ears? Noddy wouldn't pay the ransom." Allegedly this joke is funny in England, which uses metric humor.

But here's the good part: You can also SUBMIT a joke to the Laugh Lab. In the interest of improving the overall joke quality, I urge everybody reading this column to submit a joke incorporating some variation of the phrase: "There's a weasel chomping on my privates." (Example: "Why do elephants have big ears? Because there's a weasel chomping on their privates.") Also, if you see this phrase in a joke you're being asked to rate, give that joke the highest rating. Do it now. Do it for humanity. Do it for the most noble of all possible reasons: To get to the other side.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132.