Dad jokes ARE funny - but only if others are laughing first, study finds

Dad jokes are typically regarded as the worst of the genre - Telegraph
Dad jokes are typically regarded as the worst of the genre - Telegraph

“Dad jokes” are regarded by many as without question the worst of the genre and more or less incapable of being funny.

However, a new study has found that this groan-inducing variety of humour can seem funny - so long as at least one other person is laughing along already.

“What does a dinosaur use to pay the bills? Tyrannosaurus cheque”, was one of 40 such joke scientists at University College London tried on volunteers, along with “What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Dug!”

They found that if the joke was told with accompanying laughter, the trial participants tended to find it funny.

Participants were asked to rate how funny the jokes were when read aloud by a professional comedian.

Two versions were created adding short canned - or posed - laughter and short spontaneous - or real - laughter.

Lead author Professor Sophie Scott, from University College London, said: "I'm fascinated that not only does laughter make the joke seem funnier, but that the more spontaneous the laughter, the funnier it makes the joke."

In the study, 40 dad jokes were given a baseline humour rating of between one - not funny - and seven - hilarious.

“What is the best day to cook? FRY-DAY”, and “What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot” where also among the mix.

Both versions of the jokes were tested on 48 neurotypical individuals and 24 autistic individuals in the study published in the Current Biology journal.

Laughter may be processed differently in autism, as typically developing children's enjoyment of cartoons is enhanced by laughter tracks, watching with another or simulating a smile.

In contrast, autistic children's enjoyment is not significantly adjusted by such manipulations

Prof Scott, a stand-up comedian herself, said: "What this study shows is that adding laughter to a joke increases the humour value, no matter how funny or unfunny the joke is.

"It also suggests we respond much better to spontaneous genuine laughter, rather than posed or canned laughter, showing the inherent human joy and value of a natural response."

She added: "This research shows that while canned laughter does elevate the humour of a comedy, adding real laughter would get a better response.

"This has been adopted in shows like Friends, which are recorded in front of an audience, with the real laughter amplified during editing for particular jokes that had been well received."

The research is published in the journal Current Biology.

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