I don't get it? | Why some jokes leave us baffled... but we repeat them anyway © Tiger Aspect

I don't get it?

Why some jokes leave us baffled... but we repeat them anyway

Two-thirds of people will laugh at a joke they don’t understand - just so they fit in better.

That’s the result of a survey that also found that 56 per cent of people have repeated jokes without understanding the punchline themselves.

Neuroscientist and comedy expert Dr Helen Pilcher says that gags based on unfamiliar concepts and wordplay are those that prove most confusing.

The study of 2,000 adults,  commissioned by the TV channel Gold, also asked people if they understood a series of jokes. The one that baffled most respondents was ‘How do you drown a Hipster? In the mainstream.’

Dr Pilcher said: ‘Laughter is universal but humour is immensely subjective and although people all over the world enjoy a good joke what they find funny varies according to a number of things, such as culture, context and language. 

‘Brain activity is also implicated. The brain contains billions of neurons, and can process large amounts of information in very short time periods. For some people, all the elements of a joke come together in an instant and they "get" it, but if any of the elements are missing, then the joke falls flat.

 The top 10 jokes that amused and confused in equal measure were:

  1. How do you drown a Hipster? In the mainstream
  2. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana
  3. A jar of Omega 3 vitamins fell on my head when I opened the cupboard. I sustained super fish oil injuries
  4. How do you milk sheep? With iPhone accessories
  5. How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb? A fish
  6. What do accountants do when they're constipated? They work it out with a pencil
  7. A cowboy asked me if I could help him round up 18 cows. I said, 'Yes, of course. That's 20 cows'
  8. A horse walks into a bar and the barman says "Hey, why the long face?"
  9. What does a dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac do at night? He stays up wondering if there really is a dog
  10. I'm very pleased with my new fridge magnet. So far, I've got 12 fridges

Dr Pilcher identified variables that determine how much of the humour individuals get, with factors including their age, upbringing, personal and cultural background and life experiences.

The research was inspired by the jokes at the end of Vicar Of Dibley when Geraldine's attempts are inevitably misunderstood by Alice, played by the late Emma Chambers.

It was commissioned by TV channel Gold to promote  a one-off documentary on the Dawn French  sitcom which airs tomorrow. Channel director Gerald Casey said: ‘We wanted to commemorate this iconic show by revealing just how subjective humour and jokes can be.

The poll also revealed the top 10 jokes from those end scenes:

  1. Two nuns are driving through Transylvania when a great big vampire jumps on the bonnet. One nun says to the other 'show him your cross'. So, the nun opens the window and yells: 'get off my bonnet you toothy git!’
  2. There's a vicar playing golf with his friend John. John misses a three-foot putt, and he says: ‘Dammit, I missed the bugger.’ The vicar tuts and says, ‘John, if you say that once more then God will open up the heavens and send a thunderbolt to strike you dead.’ But then John misses a two-foot putt, and he says: ‘Dammit, I missed the bugger.’ So, the heavens open a great big thunderbolt comes down and strikes the Vicar dead and God says ‘Dammit, I missed the bugger’
  3. What happens if you cross a turkey with and octopus? Everyone gets a leg at Christmas
  4. Why did the lobster blush? Because the sea weed
  5. Santa Claus goes to the doctor and says, 'Doctor, I think I've got a mince pie stuck up my bottom'. The doctor looks and says, ‘Oh dear, you do indeed have a mince pie stuck up your bottom. But you're in luck - I've got some cream for that'
  6. They've come up with a new low-fat communion wafer. It's called 'I can't believe it's not Jesus'
  7. What do you get if you eat too many Christmas decorations? Tinsellitis
  8. What do you call a budgie that's been run over by lawnmower? Shredded Tweet
  9. Knock knock - Who's there? - OJ - OJ who? - OK! You can be on the jury
  10. What do accountants do when they're constipated? They work it out with a pencil

The Vicar of Dibley: Inside Out is on Gold at 9pm tomorrow, Saturday March 6.

Published: 5 Mar 2021

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