Science Tells Us When A Tragedy Is Joke-Worthy
If you’ve cracked a joke about a tragic event that’s made someone more likely to slap your face than their knee, you should read this.
By ModernMan Editors
Some folks at the Humor Research Lab (HuRL) in Colorado have determined that in order for a person to avoid jeers after telling a joke about a horrible tragedy like 9/11 or the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the zinger has to balance how much time has passed and how severe the event was.
The scientists cited a “sweet spot” relating to how bad and how distant (in terms of space, time, relationship, and imagination) the event was when considered a “benign violation” — a serious but distant event that became funny over time.
Their conclusion came after analyzing three sets of studies: An online survey where people revealed and rated events from their lives that became funnier or less funny with time (events that became funnier over time were rated as more severe); another where participants rated grave events like car wrecks as funnier over the span of five years but something like a stubbed toe as funny after one day; and a third where undergrads felt strangers accidentally donating $1,880 via text was funnier than if a friend made the same error, but that when the amount was scaled down to $50 they thought their friend’s mistake was funnier.
What does this all tell us? Basically, unless you’re a stand-up comedian that’s paid to perform edgy material, stick to those rib-tickling knock-knock jokes you’re so good at telling.