We traveled over 91,000 miles for our book, The Humor Code. Everywhere we went, we found a different flavor of humor. The jokes that got laughs at a comedy club in Denver didn’t always fly in the office of the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, and the torturous game shows that the Japanese find so amusing often fell flat flat with sitcom producers in Los Angeles.
This observation inspired perhaps our most controversial question:
“What are the funniest cities in the United States?”To answer this question, Pete turned to his Humor Research Lab (HuRL). The HuRL team, helmed by Adrian Ward and Caleb Warren, created the Humor Algorithm (HA) to rank the 50 funniest cities in America – the most comprehensive analysis of humorous cities ever attempted.
Over a nine-month period, the team collected extensive data for the project. First, they mined the Internet and the comedy industry for a variety of objective measures:
- Frequency of visits to Cheezburger comedy websites, such as Lolcats and FAIL Blog
- Number of comedy clubs per square mile in each city
- Traveling comedians’ ratings of each city’s comedy-club audiences
- Number of famous comedians born in each city, divided by city population
- Number of famous funny tweeters living in each city, divided by city population
- Number of comedy radio stations available in each city
- Frequency of humor-related web searches originating in each city
Then, the team conducted an extensive survey with more than 900 residents from the top ten cities determined by the objective measures above. To glean a deeper understanding of humorous daily life in these cities, researchers quizzed residents on the kinds of funny entertainment they enjoyed, asked whether they looked for humor in their friends and lovers, and subjected them to a “Need for Levity” personality test. Participants also described their city’s sense of humor and recounted their favorite joke.
The result was not just a more accurate top ten list, but also a window into the various “humor profiles” of each of the top ten cities. Boston residents, for example, balance high-brow intellectualism with drunken rowdiness while Washington, D.C., finds humor in the absurdities of political systems. And Portlanders? They’re just plain weird.