Hold on to your sides, world's funniest joke revealed by scientists

Thursday, December 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ After months of serious study and much merriment, 100,000 people have voted on the world's funniest joke.

In an experiment named Laughlab, a joke about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson emerged a clear winner Thursday from 10,000 entries.

The joke: ``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'.''

The experiment, devised by Dr. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, also looked at differences in humor between men and women and among people of 11 nations.

Big differences emerged between the jokes liked by men and women, with men favoring jokes involving aggression, putting down women and sexual innuendo.

Women preferred jokes involving word play such as: ``A man walks into a bar with a piece of tarmac under his arm. He says to the bartender: 'A pint for me, and one for the road.'''

Laughlab, organized in conjunction with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, claimed it was the largest experiment of its kind ever conducted. Volunteers were asked to log on to an Internet site where they could rate jokes and add their own.

The joke voted the world's second-funniest was submitted from the United States, Wiseman said.

It reads as follows:

``Two hunters from New Jersey are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing. The other whips out his mobile phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps out to the operator: ``My friend is dead. What can I do?''

The operator in a calm soothing voice says ``Just take it easy. First let's make sure he's dead.''

There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: ``OK, now what?''

Germans rated more jokes ``very funny'' than people of any other nationality.

Being easily amused is not the same as having a good sense of humor, however. One of the favorite jokes in Germany was: ``Why is television called a medium? Because it is neither rare nor well-done.''

Other jokes rated as supremely funny in different countries were as follows:

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?''

Sweden: ``A guy phones the local hospital and yells, 'You've gotta send help! My wife's in labor!'' The nurse says, `Calm down. Is this her first child?' He replies, 'No! This is her husband!'''

Canada: ``What do you call a woman who can balance four pints of beer on her head? Beatrix.''

Think ``tricks with beer'' and the joke comes into focus. Or not.