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Anorak | The Gag-O-Meter

The Gag-O-Meter

by | 14th, June 2004

‘QUESTION: Why did the rooster cross the road? ANSWER: To prove he wasn’t a chicken.

What happend next scored a rib-cracking 200 in Scotland but a zero in England

Okay, so it’s not very funny – but just how not very funny is it?

To find out we put the joke through a new “humour rating” calculator devised by two scientists for the Science Museum’s comedy research project.

The formula, outlined by Helen Pilcher and Timandra Harkness, suggests that the funniness of a particular joke is dependent on the length of the build-up and the absence of puns.

It states that X (the humour rating) = (fl+n to the power of o)/p, where f = funniness of punchline, l = length of build-up, n = slapstick factor, o = ouch factor and p = number of puns.

Thus, if we feed our rooster joke into the system, we learn that its humour rating is (8 x 5 + (9 to the power of 2))/1. In other words, 121 out of a possible 200.

We can therefore tell conclusively that it is not as funny as the joke the Sun uses to test the formula this morning.

It goes as follows: A woman slips on a cow-pat. She gets up only to see a man slip on the same cow-pat. “I did that,” she says. “Well, next time clear it up,” he replies.

We’ll take a brief pause to allow you to dry your eyes and rest your aching ribs before telling you that that little jest has a humour rating of 172 – fully 51 chortle points ahead of our gag.

But veteran comic Bernard Manning thinks the idea of a formula for jokes is rubbish.

After all, he’s been using the same formula for his jokes for years and he’s rubbish. (Boom! Boom! And a humour rating of 145.)

“Tommy Cooper,” he tells the Sun, “could make people laugh just by standing silent.”

Indeed, 20 years ago he brought the house down during the Live From Her Majesty’s show by falling to the ground and clutching his chest…until the audience realised he had suffered a fatal heart attack.

But mathematicians will have noticed a rather large flaw in the formula, namely that any joke that does not contain a single pun will have a humour rating of infinity.

That’s why Tommy Cooper could make people laugh just by standing silent or keeling over dead. And that’s presumably why Frank Skinner and David Baddiel are still in paid employment…’



Posted: 14th, June 2004 | In: Tabloids Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink