A Laughing Matter

Two hunters are out in the bush when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed so his buddy whips out his phone and calls the hospital.

“My friend is dead!” he gasps, “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 hunter says: “OK, now what?”

Is that funny?

Well, according to Dr Richard Wiseman, an awful lot of people think so.

As a matter of fact, the University of Hertfordshire psychologist claims it is the funniest joke ever.

He bases that conclusion on the results of a study that featured more than 40,000 jokes and almost two million ratings from around the world.

Okay, he used the internet to gather his data so the material is very first world heavy and has little input from Africa but the report contains quite a few laughs and I think it is relevant at the moment.

I say that because one of the most encouraging things I’ve noticed while watching the Olympics this year is the way athletes and supporters from different countries have been treating each other.

There seems to be less ‘patting ourselves on the back’ from the winners and more respect and good will all around.

Wiseman’s report suggests people from different parts of the world have different senses of humour which the professor says can make it difficult for different nationalities to get along.

But he says the more we understand about how culture and background affect sense of humour, the more we will be able to communicate effectively.

I think that is exactly what’s happening.

That may be because the internet and social media have allowed people from all over to get to know each other without interference from governments, the media or big business.

Yes, you read that correctly; I just said there is a possibility social media might be helping to make the world a better place.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say this week, but before I sign off I’d like to share a few more of Wiseman’s findings.

The most confusing might be that Germans found just about everything funny and didn’t have a preference for one type of joke.

That could mean your average German either has a great sense of humour, or none at all and simply laughs at anything.

People from Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand enjoyed jokes involving word plays.

Patient: “Doctor, I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bum.”

Doctor: “No worries, I’ve got some cream for that!”

Americans and Canadians, on the other hand, preferred jokes where a person looks stupid or is made to look stupid by someone else.

Texan: “Where are you from?”

Harvard graduate: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”

Texan: “OK, where are you from, Asshole?”

Being American, I quite like that one; and as a citizen of the world I like the others as well.

Then again, I have a lot of German blood in me.

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