The Current

Trying to get your dad joke to land? Just add a laugh track, study says

A new study has found that even the most groan-inducing dad joke can seem funnier with a bit of canned laughter. 

'The more intense the laughter, the funnier it makes the joke,' says neuroscientist Sophie Scott

Scientists in the U.K. have learned even the most groan-inducing dad joke can seem funnier when the punchline is paired with a bit of canned laughter. (Shutterstock / file404)
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What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot.

Not cracking up yet?

Well, a new study has found that even the most groan-inducing dad joke can seem funnier with a bit of canned laughter. 

British neuroscientist Sophie Scott set out to find a motley crew of terrible jokes — ones that would typically be followed by an awkward silence or an eye roll.

"We deliberately took weaker jokes because we wanted to try and improve them," said Scott, a cognitive neuroscience professor who led the research team at University College London.

They narrowed it down to 40 bad jokes, which they paired with a laugh track, and tested on participants. Here are a few of them:

  • What state has the smallest drinks? Mini-soda.
  • What does a dinosaur use to pay the bills? Tyrannosaurus cheques.
  • What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Dug.

"The more intense the laughter, the funnier it makes the joke," she told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

For years, the comedy in popular sitcoms — such as SeinfeldFrasier and The Big Bang Theory — came pre-loaded with a laugh track, sometimes recorded from a studio audience, to guide viewers to the punchline. 

Now Scott and her team have proven that a pre-existing chorus of chuckles does the trick.

"When you're hearing the laugh, maybe that makes you want to laugh. Maybe that makes you then feel like everything's a bit funnier."


Written by Amara McLaughlin. Produced by Adam Killick.

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