SATURDAY’S CHILD – No better medicine
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services.
He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?”. The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”
There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”
This is supposed to be the world’s funniest joke and the culmination of a scientific project designed by Professor Richard Wiseman (Quirkology). The joke was rated the best of the 40 000 submitted to the Laugh.lab project.
According to the organisers: “The joke is interesting because it works across many different countries, appeals to men and women, and young and old alike. Many of the jokes submitted received higher ratings from certain groups of people, but this one had real universal appeal.”
The joke that came second featured the dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied: “I see millions and millions of stars.”
Holmes said: “And what do you deduce from that?”
Watson replied: “Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life.”
And Holmes said: “Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent.”
According to the Laugh.lab research, there were differences in what different nations found funny. The British, Irish, Australians and New Zealanders love jokes involving wordplay such as the one about the patient who says to the doctor, “I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bum.” The doctor replies, “I’ve got some cream for that.”
They found that Americans and Canadians preferred “one-upmanship” type jokes. A Texan asks a Harvard graduate: “Where are you from?” The Harvard grad replies” “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.” The Texan then says: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?”
The poll of 2 000 Britons found those over 50 laughed far less than their younger counterparts and complained far more. While infants laughed up to 300 times a day, that figure had fallen to an average of six laughs by teenage years and only 2.5 daily chuckles for those over 60, the survey for cable TV channel Dave found. Men were also found to be grumpier than women.
One reason for the decline in mirth might be the lack of joke-telling skills. The study found the average Briton only knows two jokes.
I find that hard to believe but in thinking about it, the English love puns and word-play, and are not into long, contrived jokes. For example, there is the joke about the extremely tubby Englishman who got on a bus. A woman sought to embarrass him into losing weight by saying: “If that stomach was on a woman she would be pregnant.”
He replied calmly: “Yes, madam. It was, and she is.”
Another of my favourites is the one about the hunter, shotgun in hand, dashing through the woods frantically. In a clearing he came upon a totally nude and voluptuous young lady. She looked up at him innocently and asked: “What are you doing?” He replied: “I’m looking for game.” She responded sweetly:, “Well I’m game.” So he shot her.
And, of course, there is the shortest short story in the world. Three men went for a tramp in the woods. The tramp died.
There is one slightly shorter based on a university writing assignment. Each student was to write a story in as few words as possible, featuring three elements: religion, sex, and mystery. The top-scoring story: “Dear God, I’m pregnant! I wonder who did it?”
Ageing is bad enough but when it is accompanied by the loss of your sense of humour you’re in deep trouble. Laugh.lab states: “One of the most important parts of the body’s defences against disease and illness is its ‘immune system’. Experiments suggest that people who laugh more, and are able to look on the funny side of life, have healthier immune systems than others.
“A good laugh also increases our heart rate, helps us breathe more deeply, and stretches many different muscles in our face and upper body. In fact, it is like a mini workout – a quick visit to the giggle gym.
“One researcher estimated that a good laugh produces an increase in heart rate that is equivalent to ten minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.”
Here’s one for the road that will increase your heart rate. Two fish are in a tank. One turns to the other and says: “Do you know how to drive this?”
• Tony Deyal was last seen reading this short story. “He’d known her since she was very young. She was the most beautiful girl in the world, and he loved her deeply. At one time he had been her idol. Now he was losing her to another man. Eyes glistening, he kissed her cheek softly, then smiled as he gave her away to the groom.”