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Europe's funniest nation revealed

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Scientists say people react in different ways to humour  

LONDON, England -- Internet research into international humour has discovered that Germans laugh the most.

The stereotypically straight-laced image of the Germans has been bucked by a psychological study looking at what makes people laugh.

The Laugh Lab project, run by Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire, was launched three months ago in an attempt to find if universal humour exists.

Researchers found that different nationalities have varying senses of humour while men and women do not always find the same joke funny.

Out of 11 nationalities, Germans rated more jokes "very funny" than anyone else, preferring puns that rely on wordplay.

The Canadians have the weakest sense of humour, according to the survey.

What makes you laugh the most?

A pun
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One of the favourite jokes in Germany was: "Why is television called a medium? Because it is neither rare nor well-done."

Other jokes voted funny in different countries included in France: "You're a high-priced lawyer! If I give you $500, will you answer two questions for me?"

"Absolutely! What's the second question?"

Belgians laughed at: "Well, you see, there are basically three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count and those that can't."

Swedes found funny: "A guy phones the local hospital and yells, `you've gotta send help! My wife's in labour!" The nurse says, `calm down. Is this her first child?' He replies, `no! This is her husband!"'

And Canadians chortled at: "What do you call a woman who can balance four pints of beer on her head? Beatrix."

Men prefer jokes that are aggressive, put women down, and contain sexual innuendo, while women find word-play jokes funniest.

An example of a male joke was: "A guy walked into a psychiatrist's office wearing only cling-film underpants. The psychiatrist said: `well, I can clearly see you're nuts."'

Women preferred: "A man walks into a bar with a piece of Tarmac under his arm. He says to the barman: `A pint for me, and one for the road'."

Dr Wiseman said: "These findings reflect fundamental differences in the ways in which males and females use humour. Males use humour to appear superior to others, whilst women are more linguistically skilled and prefer word-puns."

The year-long research hopes to collect jokes from 100,000 people in an effort to understand if universal humour exists, and whether it can further our understanding of the brain.

People taking part are invited both to submit and rate jokes over the Web.

About 10,000 jokes have been submitted so far, with one about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson emerging as the early winner, with a top rating from 47% of those taking part.

The joke, submitted by Geoff Anandappa, from Blackpool, goes like this: Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go camping, and pitch their tent under the stars.

During the night, Holmes wakes his companion and says: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."

Watson says: "I see millions of stars, and even if a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."

Holmes replies: "Watson, you idiot. Somebody stole our tent ..."

Two chicken jokes were awarded the lowest ratings by 74% of people taking part.

One was the joke known to every school child: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side."

The other was: "Why are chickens considered good employees? Because they work around the cluck."

Laugh Lab, organised in conjunction with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, is the largest experiment of its kind ever carried out.

Laugh Lab Web site:


• University of Hertfordshire
• Laughter Lab

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