The World’s Funniest Joke – Quirkology Strikes Again

In a previous post, I shared with you some of the quirky facts I learned from reading Richard Wiseman’s excellent book, Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things. This time I want to share with you some of the contenders from a chapter entitled, “The Scientific Search for The World’s Funniest Joke.”

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

In this chapter, Wiseman discusses the psychology of humour and describes the study he conducted in trying to find the world’s funniest joke. Wiseman acknowldeges that humour is very contextual and cultural, so there really is no joke that the whole world would find funny, but the the study did end up designating one joke as the funniest to the greatest number of people who participated in the study (garnering 55% of the vote).

Through his research, Wiseman was able to discern three factors that create the funniest jokes:

  1. Top jokes create a sense of superiority for those who find it funny – the more superior people feel, the harder they laugh.
  2. We laugh at the aspects of life that cause us the most anxiety.
  3. Jokes are funny when there is a strong incongruity between the setup and the punch line – the accompanying feeling of surprise makes us laugh.

Now, you are going to have to buy (or borrow) the book to find out which joke was voted as the funniest, but I thought I would give you a few of the ones that I found funny in this chapter. See what you think. And please feel free to contribute what YOU think is the funniest joke you know.

So, in no particular order…

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see.”

Watson replied: “I see millions and millions of stars.”

Holmes said: “And what do you deduce from that?”

Watson replied: “Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there . And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life.”

And Holmes said: “Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent.”

A guy goes to the hospital for a check-up. After weeks of tests, a doctor comes to see him and says that he has some good news and some bad news.

“What’s the bad news?” asks the man.

“I am afraid that we think you have a very rare and incurable disease,” says the doctor.

“Oh my God, that’s terrible,” says the man. “What’s the good news?”

“Well,” replies the doctor, “we are going to name it after you.”

A patient says to her psychiatrist: “Last night I made a Freudian slip; I was having dinner with my husband and wanted to say, ‘Could you please pass the butter.’ But what I said instead was: ‘You son of a bitch, you ruined my life.’ “

A guy goes to his priest and says, “I feel terrible. I am a doctor and I have slept with some of my patients.”

The priest looks concerned, and then tries to make the man feel better by saying, “You aren’t the first doctor to sleep with patients and you won’t be the last. Perhaps you shouldn’t feel so guilty.”

“You don’t understand,” says the man, “I’m a vet.”

A guy goes to the doctor and has a checkup. At the end of the examination, he turns to the doctor and asks how long he has to live. The doctor replies, “Ten.”

The guy looks confused and says, “Ten what? Years? Months? Weeks?”

The doctor replies, “Nine, eight, seven…”

A man dies and his wife telephones her local newspaper and says, “I would like to print the following obituary: Bernie is dead.”

The man at the newspaper pauses, and says, “Actually, for the same price you could print six words.”

The woman replies, “Oh, okay, can I go with: Bernie is dead. Toyota for sale.”

A shipwreck survivor washes up on the beach of an island and is surrounded by a group of warriors.

“I’m done for,” the man cries in despair.

“No, you are not,” comes a booming voice from the heavens. “Listen carefully, and do exactly as I say. Grab a spear and push it through the heart of the warrior chief.”

The man does what he is told, turns to the heavens and asks, “Now what?”

The booming voice replies, “Now you are done for.”

So, those are some of the best from the chapter (some of you are thinking, “If those are the best, what are the worst?”)

Comments or contributions are welcome.



Filed under Athesim, humanism, politics, religion, science, skepticism, social commentary

5 responses to “The World’s Funniest Joke – Quirkology Strikes Again

  1. Dissembling jokes and figuring out why they’re funny seems initially like a killjoy thing to do, but I actually enjoy it. It’s kind of fun, whenever you hear a joke, to take it apart and find out why it makes you laugh.

    Dan Dennett briefly mentions his evolutionary theory of humour in this talk:

  2. What’s the problem with atheism?

    No one to talk to during sex.

    • theformerfundie

      What’s sad about an atheist funeral?

      All dressed up and no place to go.

      What do you call a whole 3 feet wide by 8 feet long by 6 feet deep that is in Peking?

      A communist plot.

  3. Flo

    Indeed if those are the best…
    I love your humour!

    True, humour is very contextual and cultural. I recently tried a joke on :
    the neuron in a man’s brain vs all the neurons that are “downthere” with a macho man, well he never got it… A proof of the veracity of the joke.

    If you don’t get it either, well then…
    usually women enjoy it more anyway.

  4. Jim

    I laughed!! Especially the countdown to death one …

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