Thursday, March 22, 2007

The NY Times Doesn't Think I'm Funny!

John Tierney had a piece in the NY Times a week back about laughter called: "What's So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing." It's an interesting (and infuriating) read showcasing a study at Florida State University about this joke:

So there are these two muffins baking in an oven.

One of them yells, “Wow, it’s hot in here!”

And the other muffin replies:

“Holy cow! A talking muffin!”

What pissed me off was Mr. Tierney's immediate response to the joke, which was dismissive: "Did that alleged joke make you laugh? I would guess (and hope) not. But under different circumstances, you would be chuckling softly, maybe giggling, possibly guffawing. I know that’s hard to believe, but trust me."

What the hell? That joke is HILARIOUS. Is Mr. Tierney that sure of himself that he doesn't think anybody could reasonably appreciate the joke and think that it is -- gasp -- funny? Has he ever heard of a non sequitur? That joke could kill for anyone who knows how to deliver a dry punchline with good timing. In fact, it's remarkably close to one of my favorite jokes of all time (it involves farm animals, though).

Social psychologists at Florida State University told this joke to undergraduate women and discovered that women in a lower position of power (subordinate employee) were much more likely to laugh at the muffin joke than were women in a control group. But if you go through their methodology, it turns out that this is not the result of the women consciously trying to gain favor with the boss. Tyler F. Stillman, who is working with Roy Baumeister and Nathan DeWall on this study, said “Laughter seems to be an automatic response to your situation rather than a conscious strategy. When I tell the muffin joke to my undergraduate classes, they laugh out loud.”

Apparently the NY Times doesn't think I'm funny and doesn't appreciate non-sequitors or the black arts of the deceptive punchline. Mr. Tierney and the researchers are both mistaken if they think that the only reason someone would ever laugh at the muffin joke is if there was something unconsciously forcing them to do so. And contrary to popular belief, I am not a subordinate undergradate woman -- though I have a joke about them too (coincidentally, also involving farm animals).

2 comments:

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J. Kipchirchir said...

Assad, I thought I was the only one on this one ... looks like we share common grounds when it comes to humour. I thought that jokoe was hillarious and was inthe middle of my laughter when I got really insulted by the authors comments ... Why wouldnt anyone laugh at that? You dont have to be in the bottom of the food chain to find things funny. If I was being interviewed by someone superior to me, laughing would be the last thing in my mind, let alone comprehending their jokes ...