Science Discovers "World's Funniest Joke"


According to the London Telegrah, via Arts & Letters Daily, Science–with a capital S–has determined that the world's funniest joke was written by Spike Milligan, "Comic Genius!" and goes something like this:

Two hunters are out in the woods in New Jersey when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps 'My friend is dead! 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 guy says 'OK, now what?'

As a Garden Stater, I find nothing funny about this, but, dammit, the methodology used to arrive at the WFJ is simply unimpeachable and hence I must acknowledge Truth when it is revealed to me via science:

Five years ago, Prof Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, did an online experiment in which 300,000 people from around the world took part in LaughLab, where they voted for the best gag….

Prof Wiseman contacted Milligan's daughter, Sile, and she is as certain as she can be that he would have written the gag. She said she was "delighted that dad wrote the world's funniest joke".

Prof Wiseman said: "I think what is interesting here is that a joke from the 1950s still works, and how it has transformed over time from a cosy sitting room to hunters in New Jersey."

Whole thing here.

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  1. Five years ago, Prof Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, did an online experiment in which 300,000 people from around the world took part in LaughLab, where they voted for the best gag….

    It would be nice to know how he selected these people, etc.

  2. I thought it was pretty darn funny, but I’m assuming that if it was Milligan, it was of latter day vintage as they didn’t have cell phones in the 50s did they?

  3. He added: “Spike Milligan was clearly into surreal humour. The sort of people who like his stuff will be people with a high tolerance for ambiguity because the sketches don’t really have a sense of closure.”
    Spike would not have liked this designation as the world’s funniest joke because that gives it a sense of closure.

    And is Spike’s daughter’s name pronounced “silly”? If so, that would have been cruel.f

  4. Pull the other one mate. Everybody knows Ernest Scribbler wrote the Funniest Joke in the World. Poor bastard.

  5. Paradozically, the Monty Python skit about the World’s Funniest Joke may in fact be the world’s funniest joke, and precisely because they didn’t bother to say what the joke was.

  6. The final decision to declare this the world’s funniest joke fell when it was told to Dick Cheney. He almost died laughing.

  7. Did either of the Jersey guys have the name “McJones”?

  8. Tenacious D played the Greatest Song In The World, but couldn’t remember it.

  9. Jersey is a hoplophobe. I don’t think he would touch a gun even if a government official ordered him to. There are limits for even the most servile among us.

  10. tarran,

    Great word. Thanks. 🙂

  11. Well, if this is really Science talking, we should be able to reproduce the results in another experiment, right?

  12. crimethink,

    Not everything in science is “reproduceable” in that way. Not yet at least.

  13. Well, some of us think that if it’s not reproducible, it’s not really science.

  14. I call bullshit. The funniest joke ever had the punchline, “You’re not just here for the hunting, are you?”

  15. The Real Bill,

    I guess you must not like a lot of the aspects of the study of evolution then. Or archaelogy.

  16. PL,

    I like both, but I don’t consider everything they do as science. Much is educated guesswork at best.

  17. It probably doesn’t qualify as a joke, but I find this funnier:

  18. It’s no funnier than:

    This guy walks into a bar with this huge parrot on his head, feathers are draping down his shoulders and over his forehead.

    The bartended looks up at him, somewhat surprised and asks:

    “Hey, where the heck did you get that thing?”

    The parrot replies: “Funny thing, it started as a bump on my ass.”

  19. Nobody’s beat Cicero for jokes.

    “Other witticisms are those that suggest a joke that is not quite on the surface ; to this group belongs the quip of the Sicilian to whom a friend was lamenting because, as he told him, his wife had hanged herself from a fig-tree, and who replied, `Do please let me have some cuttings from that tree of yours to plant.’ ”

    De Oratore, II. lxviii 278

  20. Obviously the funniest joke ever follows:

    A man walks up to a pirate with a steering wheel sticking out of his crotch. He asks, “What’s that wheel for?” The pirate answers, “Aargh, it’s drivin’ me nuts!”

    Close second:
    A man walks into a psychiatrist’s office, obviously upset. He paces back and forth, and says, “Doctor, I dont’ know what’s wrong with me! Sometimes I think I’m a wigwam and sometimes I think I’m a teepee.” The shrink says, “You need to calm down, you’re two tents!”

  21. “…rectum? Damn near killed him!”

  22. Try this:
    Next time you come up with an original joke, go directly to a bar and tell it to the bartender.
    Then drive immediately to a bar across town and ask the bartender there if he’s heard any good ones.
    He will tell you your joke.
    Not only that, but this was true before email was as prevailant as it is now.

  23. What did the snail say when he climbed on the turtle’s back?

  24. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

  25. ‘My friend is dead! What can I do?’

    Weak. This setup coulda been better. Perhaps: “My friend might be dead! What can I do?” or something…

    I like joe’s joke.

  26. “Jersey is a hoplophobe…”

    Did you just call someone a hoplophobe?

    Must be that you’re a hoplophile…(damned gun fuckers)
    Me, I am a hip-hoplophile…except I hate the gansta rap.

    Does this make me a hip-hoplophobiaphile?

  27. A guy’s out golfing. He’s on the sixth hole, about to hit his second shot, when he hears a frog say “Six Iron. Ribbit.” He looks down, and frog says again, “Six Iron. Ribbit.” So he takes out his six iron and hits a perfect shot up onto the green and into the hole.

    He’s ecstatic, so he picks up the frog and says, “Froggy, you’re coming with me.” The frog keeps telling him which club to use, and he ends up hitting the best round of your life. On the eighteenth green, he sinks his short put, looks at the frog, and says, “All right, now we’re going to Vegas.”

    They get to the routlette table, and the frog says “Black 15.” He puts $100 on black 15, and sure enough, it comes up. Then red 6. Then black 23. He ends up $127,000 up.

    So he springs for the elite suite in the hotel, and he’s up there celebrating his success. He looks at the frog and says, “Oh, Froggy, I owe you so much. Is there anything I can do for you?”

    The frog says, “Kiss me.” So he swallows hard, leans in, and plants a big kiss on the forg’s back. And POOF! the frog turns into a fifteen year old girl.

  28. …and that, Your Honor, is how she got into my hotel room.

  29. Randolph Carter: that joke is only funny when you hear it from the human male in World of Warcraft.

    Actually, they get all the best jokes, including the longest one, about the “Ruler of the Bracelet”, with its parts “Brotherhood of the Bracelet”, followed by “A Couple of Towers” and the climactic ending… “Hey! The king’s back!”

    The Spike Milligan joke I can imagine working a lot better on radio, with a gun sound effect.

  30. Spike can kiss my swingers. Funniest gag ever:

    Why did the bakers hands smell?

    Because he kneaded a shit!!!


  31. The Funniest Joke in the Universe is known only by Marn of Quark’s Bar

  32. This is the funniest joke in the world. Really.

    Q: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A: A fish!

  33. Q: How many ADD kids does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A: Wanna ride bikes?

  34. One day, a little girl was walking her dog in the park. A policeman came upon her and ask, ?what?s your name. Little girl??

    ?My name?s Petal.?

    ?Petal?? the policeman asked. ?That?s a very unusual name. Tell me, how did you come to be named petal??

    ?Well,? replied the little girl, ?I was born on a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining the birds were singing and spring flowers were in full bloom. And because the day was so beautiful and I was so beautiful and the flowers were so beautiful, that my mother decided to name me Petal, because it?s such a beautiful name.?

    ?Why, that?s a beautiful story, Petal and such a beautiful name. You mother couldn?t have chosen a better one?

    ?No,? Petal replied, she could not.?

    ?Then tell me, Petal? asked the policeman, ?What?s your little doggy?s name??

    ?Why, his name is Porky.?

    ?My, my! That?s an unusual name too! So how did you come to name your little dog Porky??

    Petal replied, ?He fucks pigs.?

  35. Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?

    A: Elephino!

    Did you hear about the American Indian who drank 100 gallons of tea?

    He nearly drowned in his own tea pee.

    – The above courtesy of The Unknown Comic.

    I grew up in Downer’s Grove, a small town in Illinois. I heard they had a big blackout there the other day. But the sheriff stopped him at the edge of town and made him go away.

    I love to go to the playground at watch all the children running around and yelling their little heads off. They don’t know I’m only using blanks.

    – The two above courtesy of Emo Phillips.


  36. Two peanuts were walking down a street.
    One was a salted.

  37. Mad Scientist:

    Ve let you know.

  38. How do you make a Nazi cross?

    Tread on his corns!

  39. Isaac Asimov told a joke who’s setup was the length of a novel. It ended with someone asking a newly created super computer, “Is there a god?” A short silence followed by a short chatter on the teletype. “There is now.”

    A variation on the parrot joke:

    An Aggie (student, especially a corpsman, at Texas A.M. University) walks in a doctor’s office with a frog on his head. Doctor says, “What can I do for you?” Frog says, “You can remove this wart from my stomach.”

    A number of the jokes I heard growing up in the ’50s and ’60s in Texas I later saw acted out in Benny Hill skits.

  40. I’ve heard the Goons and I’ve never been able to make any fucking sense whatsoever out of their comedy.

  41. Isaac Asimov told a joke who’s setup was the length of a novel. It ended with someone asking a newly created super computer, “Is there a god?” A short silence followed by a short chatter on the teletype. “There is now.”

    I don’t remember such a novel, but he did have a short story with that ending.

  42. I don’t remember such a novel, but he did have a short story with that ending.

    You’re no doubt right. I remembered it as being a short novel.

    I can’t find the title of the story though The Last Question is in a similar vein.

    Other authors who have stretched out the joke: Of God, Humans
    and Machines
    : The computer in science fiction

  43. Well, there was a longish story of his that was the last in a series about a near-godlike computer that ran the world, essentially. A huge alien spaceship is detected coming in at sublight speeds and the protagonists race to advance the comupter’s I/O capabilities so it can hold a spoken conversation with them – so they can coordinate with it to figure out how to best handle this first contact.

    The computer managaed to communicate with the alien ship, which turns out to be a computer as well. The computer explains to the protagonist that the alien ship is interested in whether it and humans have a proper relationship, and the final dialogue goes something like this:

    The computer: “I told it that you were my…Hmm, trying to determine a precise word for the description I sent.”

    The male scientist: “You told it we were your friends?”

    The female scientist: “Maybe ‘partners’?”

    The computer: “Ah! ‘Pets.'”

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