[ from uk.rec.humour ]
At the risk of being considered a historian, I would remind everyone that on this very newsgroup in October 2003, Fox posted the following:
LONDON (Reuters) - After a year of painstaking scientific research, the world's funniest joke has been revealed!
In a project described as the largest-ever scientific study into humour, the British Association for the Advancement of Science asked Internet users around the world to submit their favourite jokes and rate the funniness of other people's offerings.
More than 40,000 jokes from 70 countries and two million critiques later, this is it:
"Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other man pulls out his phone and calls emergency services.
He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator in a calm, soothing voice replies: "Take it easy. 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?"
Researchers found significant differences between nations in the types of jokes they found funny.
People from the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand preferred gags involving word play, such as:
PATIENT: "Doctor, I've got a strawberry stuck up my bum."
DOCTOR: "I've got some cream for that."
Americans and Canadians favoured jokes where people were made to look stupid.
TEXAN: "Where are you from?"
HARVARD GRAD: "I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions."
TEXAN: "OK -- where are you from, jackass?"
Meanwhile, many Europeans liked gags that were surreal or made light of serious subjects such as illness, death and marriage:
A patient says, "Doctor, last night I made a Freudian slip, I was having dinner with my mother-in-law and wanted to say: 'Could you please pass the butter?'
"But instead I said: 'You silly cow, you have completely ruined my life.'"
Marriage-mocking also featured in the top American joke:
"A man and a friend are playing golf one day. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course.
"He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer. His friend says: 'Wow that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You are truly a kind man.'
"The man then replies: 'Yeah, well, we were married 35 years.'"
Death earned big laughs in Scotland:
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror like his passengers."
And animals figured prominently. Take the number one joke in England:
"Two weasels are sitting on a bar stool. One starts to insult the other one. He screams, 'I slept with your mother!'
"The bar gets quiet as everyone listens to see what the other weasel will do.
"The first again yells, 'I SLEPT WITH YOUR MOTHER!'
"The other says: 'Go home dad, you're drunk.'"
The survey revealed other fun facts:
-- Of the countries rating the highest number of jokes, Germans, perhaps surprisingly, laughed the most. Canadians laughed least.
-- If you want to tell a funny animal joke, make it a duck.
-- The most frequently submitted joke, at 300 times, was: "What's brown and sticky? A stick."
Researchers said no one ever found it funny.