LONDON — Can’t seem to crack a smile whenever dad tells a corny joke? According to a new study out of London, he may want to consider adding a laugh track to his comedy routine. A new study finds that adding canned or authentic laughter to the end of a bad joke actually helps it seem funnier.
It’s no wonder that some of those cheesy network sitcoms draw big ratings, especially when filmed in front of a live studio audience. Researchers at the University College of London say that while both canned and authentic laughter helps jokes seem funnier, authentic laughs were even more effective than posed laugh tracks.
The study’s authors put together 40 corny “dad jokes” and gave each joke a baseline humor rating between one (not funny at all) and seven (hilarious). Then, a professional comedian recorded each joke and two versions of each joke were created; one including a canned laugh track and another with a short recording of real, spontaneous laughter.
Both versions of the jokes were then tested out on two groups of participants: 48 neurotypical individuals and 24 individuals with autism.
Researchers wanted to include an autism group because it is believed autistic people may process laughter differently. For example, neurotypical children are easily swayed by outside factors such as laugh tracks or other people’s reactions to a cartoon or joke. Autistic children, on the other hand, are not as easily influenced.
Both participant groups found that adding any type of laughter made the jokes funnier. However, authentic laughs led to higher comedic scores than canned laugh tracks. There was also no difference among neurotypical and autistic individuals; both groups gave higher funniness ratings to jokes paired with real laughs.
“What this study shows is that adding laughter to a joke, increases the humor value, no matter how funny or unfunny the joke is,” lead author Professor Sophie Scott comments in a release. “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.”
Wondering just how bad these dad jokes were? Judge for yourself:
- What state has the smallest drinks? Mini-soda!
- What does a dinosaur use to pay the bills? Tyrannosaurus cheques!
- What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!
Professor Scott and her team say they were surprised to see that the results were so similar among the two groups. Furthermore, their findings indicate that everyone is influenced by the laughter of others, whether they realize it or not.
“Our data suggests that laughter may also influence how funny the comedy is perceived to be, and that people with autism are equally sensitive to this effect,” Scott comments. “This might suggest that comedy and laughter are more accessible to people with autism than typically considered to be.”
In future studies, researchers hope to more closely analyze how laughter impacts brain activity.
The study is published in the scientific journal Current Biology.