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Scientist seeks world's funniest joke on Internet

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September 5, 2001 Posted: 3:24 PM EDT (1924 GMT)


GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) -- A British scientist launched a quest Wednesday for the world's funniest joke.


Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from Hertfordshire University near London, said the year-long, Internet-based search should throw light on whether men and women, the young and old, and specific nationalities find different jokes funny.


"It is an attempt to delve into the psychology of humor," he told a science conference in Glasgow in Scotland.


"Are there certain types of jokes being submitted by a certain country and are there some which are found funny across the world -- a kind of universal joke?"


People can log on to the experiment's Web site at www.laughlab.co.uk to submit jokes and enter a few personal details before giving their verdict on a sample of other jokes.


All submissions must be in English.


After six months, jokes deemed to be the funniest will be recorded by a professional comedian with a variety of punchline timings to arrive at what -- theoretically -- should be the killer comic formula.


The site's database is already stocked with a variety of starter jokes: What kind of murderer has fiber? A serial killer. What sort of pig should you avoid at a party? A wild boar.


But Wiseman hopes these will be overtaken by a flood of 1,000 or more wisecracks in the first 24 hours of the experiment.


Smutty and offensive jokes, however funny, will not make it to the final reckoning.


"A student will come in every morning and edit out the rude ones," Wiseman said. "But it will also be interesting to see what sort of people submit those sort of jokes."


Volunteers will listen to the final jokes while undergoing a scan, to see how their brains react.


The results should help studies into brain damage and thought processes since "getting" a joke requires a number of complex cognitive processes, Wiseman told a conference of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.


For instance, people with damage to the right-hand frontal cortex find it difficult to understand many jokes or often laugh at the wrong punchline.

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