Canned laughter 'makes jokes funnier'

Adding canned laughter to the punchline of jokes - even "dad jokes" - makes them funnier, according to a study.

The effect was even bigger if real, spontaneous giggles accompanied a gag, the University College London scientists said.

They tried out 40 different jokes, ranging from the groan-worthy to the hilarious, on 72 volunteers.

The findings, in Current Biology, suggest laughter might be contagious or give others permission to also laugh.

Jokes from the study included:

  • Why couldn't the toilet paper cross the road? Because it got stuck in a crack.
  • Why can't you give Elsa a balloon? Because she will "Let It Go".
  • Why was the tomato all red? Because it saw the salad dressing.
  • What's round and sounds like a trumpet? A crumpet.
  • What do you call an apple that farts? A fruity tooty.

A professional comedian recorded the jokes and two versions were created, with

  • staged, canned laughter
  • real, spontaneous laughter

The volunteers rated only one version of each joke - but, across the study, all of the jokes were heard with both different kinds of laughter.

The addition of any type of laughter improved the "funny" rating of the jokes - even the bad ones.

But everyone in the study found jokes funniest when paired with spontaneous laughter.

Lead researcher Prof Sophie Scott said: "Historically, TV and radio programmes were always recorded in front of a live studio audience.

"This allowed those watching and listening to feel part of the performance.