Aug 15

German Humour the Best?

I found a UK-based website which did research a few years ago to find the world’s funniest joke. In the process it determined that certain countries have preferences for certain types of humour, which is obvious when you think about it. But what I find fascinating is what type of humour seems to have been preferred.

For example, The Republic of Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand expressed a strong preference for jokes involving word plays, such as:

Patient: “Doctor, I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bum.”
Doctor: “I’ve got some cream for that.

Whereas, Americans and Canadians much preferred jokes that had a sense of superiority – a person is being made to look stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person, such as:

Texan: “Where are you from?”
Harvard grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”
Texan: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?”

Apparently, a lot of European countries, like France, Denmark and Belgium, liked jokes that were somewhat surreal, such as:

An Alsatian went to a telegram office, took out a blank form and wrote:
“Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.”
The clerk examined the paper and politely told the dog: “There are only nine words here. You could send another ‘Woof’ for the same price.”
“But,” the dog replied, “that would make no sense at all.”

These European countries apparently also enjoyed gags that involved making light of topics that often make us feel anxious, such as death, illness, and marriage. For example:

A patient says: “Doctor, last night I made a Freudian slip, I was having dinner with my mother-in-law and wanted to say: “Could you please pass the butter.” But instead I said: “You silly cow, you have completely ruined my life”.”

Incidentally those last two actually made me laugh out loud. As street jokes I think they’re pretty strong.

The LaughLab website said that Germans “did not express a strong preference for any type of joke”. According to their league table of funniness the Germans don’t have any strong preferences and so tend to find a wide spectrum of jokes funny. This obviously goes against the British cliche of the Germans being humourless, but I’m guessing that notion was also borne out of past prejudices.

I was in a relationship with a German woman for a while a few years back and I met some very funny Germans. Although saying that I could never understand the comedian Happe Kerkeling and that’s not because I don’t parle vous.

This research also reminded me that British comedian Ken Dodd has allegedly put together a “Giggle Map” of Great Britain which highlights which parts of the country prefer irony, which like one-liners best and so on. Which seems to suggest that if the UK has sveral senses of humour in its different parts then so must other countires.

The Brits generally like to say that the Americans don’t understand irony – “I’ve just got back from the States. I taught irony as a foreign language” – but then how do shows like Frasier, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm exist if Americans didn’t get irony?

I guess the answer for us as speakers and humorists performing in other countries would be to understand which is the sense of humour that prevails in the broadest sense, then tailor our funniness towards that. We would also have to leave room to allow for regional tastes as well.

We could also take a leaf out of Eddie Izzard’s book and perform in the language of the country that we’re visiting. He has frequently performed shows in French and German.

1 comment

  1. Budda inna BooF

    well well well , guys u have no idea about the Egyptian sense of humor , here just a simple of
    what we have over here , but before u read just be ready , ……!

    -A drunk barber
    was shaving for his client
    when he reach to his right ear , he just asked him :” do you need this ear shit.”…..!!
    (the client) : ” hell no body ”
    (the drunk barber) cut it off and through it out the window
    and when he reached the 2nd ear asked him :” do you need this ear shit.”…..!!
    (the client) : ” damn you , yeah , i mean yes …! ”
    (the barber) : ok body no problem
    HE cut it off and give it to him

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